How are federal parties planning to make university more affordable?

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From increasing current bursaries to complete free tuition and loan forgiveness, the federal parties all have very different plans for student loans.

If you could graduate debt-free, would you vote differently? (Unknown)

In 2016, under Liberal Premier Brian Gallant, New Brunswick enacted the Tuition Access Bursary. That is, the government provided up to $10,000 in funding for students with annual household incomes under $60,000 to study at public undergraduate universities and colleges in New Brunswick.

In April of 2019, the new minority Conservative government, under Premier Blaine Higgs, announced that they would be reinstating a personal income tax credit for tuition, but eliminated the Liberal’s program. This involved changing the program to include funding for those attending private post-secondary institutions and expanding the program’s eligibility.

However, this mainly entailed changing the maximum funding to only $3000 for university students, and $1500 for college students, as no more funding was added to offset the eligibility expansion. The Conservatives also removed the Timely Completion benefit and implemented their changes immediately – meaning those who were already enrolled in post-secondary schools under the Free Tuition bursary would not be able to continue under this program until their degree was completed.

This change has been an issue for many N.B. students, as many could not afford post-secondary education without this Tuition Access bursary. Almost 30 percent of UNB students were utilizing this program.

The topic of post-secondary education has been discussed throughout this year’s federal election, and many parties have included this issue in their platforms. If you’re hoping to vote on how a party will help make post-secondary more accessible and affordable, here is what each party has promised on this topic to help you inform your decision:

The Green Party

Upon release of their party platform for the 2019 federal election, Elizabeth May, the leader of the Green Party, pledged to make post-secondary education tuition-free if elected. The party states on their website that a fundamental right of Canadians should be “universal access to quality post-secondary education and skills training”.

The pledge includes forgiving existing federal post-secondary student debt, removing the two percent cap on increases for Indigenous student funding, and ensuring that all Indigenous students have equal access to post-secondary education. They have also pledged to provide $10 billion in funding to support post-secondary and trade schools.

To fund this, the party states that they will redirect existing bursary funding, cancelling tuition tax credits, cost savings from administering the student loan program, and redirecting the student loan defaults that are written off yearly.

The New Democratic Party

The NDP, led by Jagmeet Singh, has a long-term goal of making post-secondary education part of the public education system to ensure access to all. In the short-term, the party has pledged to reduce and cap tuition, eliminate student loan interest rates, and increase access to Canada Student Grants that are non-repayable.

They have also pledged to make post-secondary education more accessible to Indigenous students by expanding their access to financial assistance.

The Liberal Party

The Liberal party, led by Justin Trudeau, has promised that students will receive up to $1200 more per year through Canada Student Grants. They plan give students two years more to start paying back student loans interest-free.

The party has also pledged to ensure that students do not have to start paying back their student loans until they are making at least $35,000 a year, an increase from the current $25,000.

They also would let new parents stop their student loan payments without interest until their child reaches the age of five. 

The Conservative Party

The Conservative Party under Andrew Scheer has promised to increase government-matched contributions for the first $500 invested in an RESP.

They would increase the contribution for those with incomes over $87,907 from 10 percent to 20 percent and for those with incomes underneath that amount from 20 percent to 40 percent.

The People’s Party has not included any post-secondary assistance in their platform.