On Tuesday, Mar. 2nd, New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant and Liberal Finance Minister Roger Melanson announced what the 2015-16 budget would entail.
Some of the highlights of the budget include cutting 249 teaching jobs, closing courts in rural areas of New Brunswick, increasing taxes on gasoline and for the province’s rich one percent, and increasing Blue cross Premiums.
What has students up in arms about the budget, however, is the decision to cancel the New Brunswick Tuition Rebate program. Already, the Government of New Brunswick’s Tuition Rebate page states that the government “will be eliminating the New Brunswick Tuition Rebate in order to refocus its resources to help students enter the post-secondary system.”
On the decision, Melanson stated in his address that, “We feel there are better ways to support students who need it most. The New Brunswick Tuition Rebate helped only those students who have already graduated and are collecting salaries. It did nothing to help needy students enter the system in the first place” (CBC, 2015).
What is problematic about Melanson’s statement is that the Tuition Rebate program’s purpose is not to help students entering university, but to provide debt reduction for graduates and to encourage the province’s youth to remain in the here for work.
The rebate is intended to be for “anyone, from anywhere in the world, who on or after January 1, 2005, pays tuition, graduates from an eligible post-secondary institution, lives and works in New Brunswick and pays New Brunswick personal income tax, will be eligible for a non-taxable rebate of 50% of their tuition costs with a maximum lifetime rebate of $20,000.”
Ultimately, the elimination of the Tuition Rebate program will be detrimental to students who are completing their post-secondary education and want to stay in the province. Without the Tuition Rebate, there is no incentive for students to stay in the province for work—thus supporting the New Brunswick economy.
The cancellation of the program will also mean that students will have a more difficult time paying off their student debt after graduation, an issue that is already of great concern for New Brunswick’s students. The program also encouraged students to study in the province.
It should also be noted that the budget includes both a tuition freeze and a freeze on contributions, such as grants, to New Brunswick universities.
At this time, there is a public Facebook page and a Petition.org petition for students and citizens of New Brunswick who wish to voice their opinions on the matter. The petition is in both French and English, and has information on how to contact Members of the Legislative Assembly in New Brunswick.
Though the online petition has exploded overnight having skyrocketed to 10,000 signees after just one evening, expect to see more public displays of displeasure in the near future. Students are mad, as they should be, and
For more information on Brian Gallant’s budget, feel free to visit these two CBC articles, outlining some of the steps of this budget, and a video and article on Roger Melanson’s announcements.