The New Brunswick government has kept its word. It eliminated interest on the provincial share of student loans from Tuesday. Interest accrued before this date remains due.
“Reducing student loan costs will make post-secondary education more attractive,” said Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labor Minister Trevor Holder.
His department says the initiative will help 65,000 current borrowers and all future New Brunswick post-secondary students (citizens or permanent residents).
A person paying off a $15,000 loan over 10 years would save about $4,500, according to the administration.
“It’s a good thing, I think,” responds Chad Richard, a second-year accounting student at Université de Moncton (U de M).
“This is fantasticexclaims a first-year law student from the same institution, Ivana Urquhart.
The minister of post-secondary education, training and work adds that students have other ways to find help to finance their studies: grants, scholarships and loans from the federal and provincial governments, as well as the repayment assistance.
The student’s requirements
The Federation of Students of the Moncton University Center (FÉÉCUM) is not enthusiastic about the elimination of interest on the provincial portion of student loans.
“It is a financial balm for graduates, but not for students,” comments its president, Jean-Sébastien Léger.
He points out that the average debt for bachelor’s graduates, at the time of obtaining their diploma, was $40,000 in New Brunswick in 2015 (the year of the last Statistics Canada survey on the topic).
The average amount of student debt for all post-secondary graduates was $28,000 that year.
Since then, tuition fees have continued to rise significantly in the province (by almost 30%).
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The president of FÉÉCUM therefore intends to repeat certain requests of his association to the provincial government.
On the one hand, Mr. Léger wants more investment in post-secondary institutions. He believes that these could lower their prices if they were better financed by the state.
On the other hand, he wants public service students who are training for professions with a shortage of labor and who are predominantly female (nurses, for example) to receive remuneration.
However, the activist confides that his association has abandoned demands in favor of the return of the Connect NB-AE program. In June, the government put an end to this means for students to receive employment insurance benefits while continuing their full-time studies.
“There is no openness from the government on this subject,” explains Mr. Léger. We will work on other options to improve the accessibility of studies.”
The loss of this program had implications for the studies of Chad Richard, whose student loans represent $5,000 a year simply because of his parents’ income. However, he pays for his accounting course alone.
“Last year I was on employment insurance. I can’t do that, notes the young Moncton native. I had to find a part-time job, 20-25 hours a week, selling at La Source. I’m disappointed even though I like what I do. I don’t have much time for my studies.
The abolition of the NB-AE Connection program also had financial consequences for a student of the bachelor’s degree in economics at U de M, Simon LeBlanc.
“It’s a loss of income that I compensate by using my savings that come to me from my family’s support,” says the 20-year-old. Last year I had $1,764 a month which helped me pay for my studies.”
The Acadian from Dieppe nevertheless relativizes his problems. He assures that he will be able to complete his studies without employment insurance or even work during the year or a student loan.
“I have an education fund paid for by my family,” he explains. I come from a relatively wealthy background and during my first two years of college I lived with my parents. I have empathy for people in the north and rural areas, for whom access to education is more difficult. They don’t have the option of going back to their parents if they run out of money.”