New Brunswick

Province delays cancellation of financial help for debt-burdened graduates

The province is rolling back its decision to immediately drop the timely completion benefit and will keep it going for students graduating this spring.

Province rolling back cut out of 'fairness' to students graduating this spring

Trevor Holder, the minister of post-secondary education, said the timely completion benefit will be extended slightly because cutting it now was unfair to students who were expecting it. (Joe McDonald/CBC)

The province is rolling back its decision to immediately drop the timely completion benefit and will keep it going for students graduating this spring.

The benefit applies to full-time undergraduates who complete their degree within the established minimum timeline and have combined student and federal loans exceeding $32,000.

Students could get the provincial loan forgiven in an amount that would bring their total debt down to $32,000. 

This is the second time in two days the the government has had to amend a financial decision it announced.

On Wednesday, Education Minister Dominic Cardy said early childhood educators with one-year diplomas will now qualify for the 75-cent hourly wage increase announced last week for graduates of two-year programs.

Part of changes in help for students

Later Wednesday, Cardy also said officials were rushing to find a way to help families whose developmentally challenged children were about to lose their support workers after stopgap funding from the Social Development Department ran out.

Elimination of the timely completion program was among changes announced by the Progressive Conservative government in early April. The government also got rid of the "free tuition" and tuition relief for the middle class programs and revived the tuition tax credit.

The government said it was cancelling the timely completion benefit because it wasn't being used enough.

But on Thursday,Trevor Holder, the minister of post-secondary education, said the timely completion benefit will be extended because the province realized cutting it now would be unfair to students who were expecting it.

"It has become apparent to us that we had a number of students graduating this year in the next few weeks that expected that funding, so we're going to fund some efficiencies within the department to fund those students this year," he said.

"Simply, this year it was too quick of a cutoff based on the cohort that's graduating this particular spring."

He said the program will only be extended to allow students graduating this year to claim it. Then it will be axed.

"In fairness, there were students that were expecting it over the next couple of weeks and we're going to honour that," he said, "And then we have to move on to make sure that we build programs that are meeting those labour market demands."

Chances brought criticism

The province previously said the timely completion benefit only benefited 281 students but cost $3.3 million last year, and that was not sustainable. 

Students counting on the timely completion benefit can only apply for it up to seven months after they graduate.

This announcement of the extended program comes after the government was criticized for making the changes to affordable schooling programs so suddenly.

Students and universities previously said the changes drop the maximum a student can receive per year from $10,000 to $3,000 and may discourage New Brunswick students from studying and staying in the province.

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