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Advocacy week airs out financial aid, social support, how to run institutions

Student leaders from New Brunswick universities converged upon legislature last week to discuss post-secondary education.

It was the second annual advocacy week organized by the New Brunswick Student Alliance (NBSA), providing a chance for students to meet with MLAs.

“The idea is to give students direct exposure with the people who make decisions on behalf of them and who control by-and-large how post-secondary in the province is run and let them talk about the issues that matter,” said Pat Joyce, executive director of the NBSA.

This year the NBSA was lobbying for seven recommendations as put forth in their “Education Works” document. The recommendations were divided into three categories: how to run institutions, financial aid, and social support.

For institutions, the NBSA proposed a 10 per cent increase to experiential learning opportunities at universities and colleges by 2018. They also recommended an increase in per-student funding so that it meets the national average.

“We placed a lot of emphasis on experiential learning and helping students make the transition from university to the workforce,” Joyce said.

In financial aid, the NBSA focussed on the New Brunswick Tuition Rebate, a program that gives a tax credit to graduates who pay income tax in New Brunswick.

“Probably the one that we’ve placed the most emphasis on is converting the tuition tax credit, the name being the New Brunswick Tuition Rebate, into the elimination of interest from the provincial portion of student loans,” Joyce said.

The NBSA also recommended the development of a comprehensive mental health strategy for post-secondary campuses and the extension of provincial healthcare coverage to international students.

Joyce said that advocacy week was successful overall. “We had a really productive week. We got to meet with quite a few ministers and members of all three parties and got some really good feedback,” he said. “Of course it’s hard to say exactly how much that feedback means until we follow up and until we are able to have some more discussions with some of the key ministers and decision makers who actually have the ability to make these recommendations a reality.”

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