Tuition Access Bursary revamp 'very likely,' says student association
NB Student Alliance welcomes new minister’s desire to revisit controversial bursary program
The executive director of the New Brunswick Student Alliance (NBSA) says it is "very likely" the province is now working toward a new sliding scale system for the Tuition Access Bursary (TAB) program.
Robert Burroughs says the Department of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour reached out to him within a "half-hour" of Premier Brian Gallant's cabinet shuffle on Monday.
"We've brought this up with [the department] in discussions, after the original TAB announcements, that implementing a sliding scale has to be a priority for the government," said Burroughs.
On Tuesday, Donald Arsenault, the new Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour said he wants to improve the TAB program.
"There's no doubt people have been talking about the hard cap of $60,000," said Arsenault.
"We'll talk about that. Is there other methods that would be better, or not. We'll have that discussion. I'm not afraid to have those discussions on very difficult situations."
It offers free tuition to students from families with an annual income of $60,000, or less, who attend a publicly-funded university or college in New Brunswick.
Students from families who earn one dollar more are not eligible for any TAB funds.
The TAB will benefit 7,100 full-time university and community college students this fall.
However, that has meant more than 40,000 New Brunswick students and recent graduates who used other funds, such as the tuition rebate program, have lost some or all of their own provincial financial support.
"What the NBSA would like to see, and what we anticipate [the department] will implement is a scale very similar to how the Ontario Student Grant works," said Burroughs.
In February, Ontario announced details of its Ontario Student Grant.
I want to talk to Ontario.- Donald Arsenault, Minister of Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour
It covers full tuition for students from families with incomes of $50,000 or less. Half of students from families with incomes of less than $83,000 will qualify for non-repayable grants.
Speaking on Tuesday, Donald Arsenault would not commit to any particular changes, but did say the Ontario model is one he would consider.
"I don't want to rule that out, but I'm not saying that it's a definite, that we'd go there. I want to talk to Ontario," said Arsenault.
Arsenault said the hard cap of $60,000 will remain in place for the 2016-17 academic year, but he said he was confident he could increase the TAB budget to make changes next year.
"I'm fairly convinced that we can be successful in securing some more funding for this program to try to enhance it."
On Monday, Premier Brian Gallant appointed Arsenault to replace Francine Landry as Minister for Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour.
It is Arsenault's second stint in the job. He served as minister in the same department under Shawn Graham's Liberal government.