A new year at university comes with so many changes. As a student, you are taking new courses with new professors and you have different classmates and schedules. It’s all so exciting. Some students may have even changed careers which is fantastic because you should do what you like! Nevertheless, a new academic year also comes with tuition costs. Some programs such as government bursaries help students cover tuition costs but earlier this year, under the Blaine Higgs government, the free tuition program and the tuition relief for the middle class changed to the renewed tuition bursary program and the reintroduction of the tuition tax credit. 

The renewed tuition program intends to financially support more students across the province. These changes affected students across the region as financial aid will be less for each student.

The free tuition program was a program introduced by the liberal government in 2016 and 2017. It benefited 6,000 students during that period with 2,000 UNB students being amongst the advantaged. The relief for the middle-class program also intended to help low-income students with a gross family income of $60,000 or less with half of their tuition, and the latter benefited 1,300 students during the 2017/18 academic year.

The last people who were able to benefit from the free tuition program were students whose post-secondary program was starting on or before July 31st, 2019. Any application for a post-secondary education beginning on August 1st did not apply.

The renewed bursary program is effective as of August 1st, 2019. The new program will now be an option for students attending private post-secondary institutions.

Earlier in the Spring, Emily Blue, the former executive director of the New Brunswick Student Alliance, mentioned in an interview with CBC her concerns for the fairness of requirements for students in public and private institutions. The latter has different prices and standards than those of public institutions; therefore, different conditions should apply. 

Under the renewed bursary program, the maximum amount a student can get regardless of the institution they attend—public or private—is that of $3,000 for university, and a maximum of $1,500 for college students.

Students will now have to pay the remaining account payable out of their pockets. In the CBC interview, Blue said “having students pay tuition out of their pocket will make it difficult for some students to return in the fall”.

Blue also said the cuts could “make it difficult for students to access post-secondary education at all, and that can also cause students to have a financial strain”.

According to the New Brunswick Student Alliance, the new government acted too quickly on changing the bursary programs.

Blue suggested a change in the previous bursary programs by asking the government to include part-time students as well.  

“The free tuition and relief for the middle-class program did not include part-time students, who may be part-time due to financial restrain or having to work while they study” said Blue in the interview.

2,000 UNB students benefited from the provincial government bursary programs | Photo by Jules Keenan

The renewed bursary program is a combination of the two previous bursary programs, reaching more students but providing less financial aid for each applicant. This is because the same $19.5 million budget will cover grants for more students.

The NB government’s intention with the Renewed Tuition Bursary is to make post-secondary education more accessible by covering part of the tuition costs for qualifying students. A student must refer to the New Brunswick Financial Assistant Program to apply for the bursary. The new bursary program can provide financial aid in conjunction with the existing federal Canada Student Grant for Full-time students.

How does the Renewed Tuition Program Work?

The government of New Brunswick provided different scenarios to depict how the renewed bursary program would work. The depictions include financial aid provided by the federal Canada Student Grant for Full-time students (CSG-FT).

For a university student attending a four-year program at a public institution with a family size of four, annual tuition of $7,770 and a yearly family income of $24,000, the CSG-FT will grant them $2,900. The renewed bursary program will give them $3,000. The bursaries leave them with a total grant of $5,900 and a remaining tuition cost of $1,870.

University students attending a private institution with a higher annual tuition of $8,400 for a four-year program—but with the same socioeconomic background as a student attending a public post-secondary institution—will also have a total grant of $5,900 with $2,900 from the federal CSG-FT and $3,000 from the renewed tuition bursary program. The remaining account payable would be of $2,500.

College Students

For college students attending a public institution with a program duration of two years, family size of two, annual tuition amount of $3,250 and family income of $19,000 the renewed bursary will not grant them any money at all. However, the CSG-FT will give the student $3,600 and the remaining account payable will be $-350.

On the other hand, a private college student attending a two-year program, with a yearly tuition of $10,250, a family size of two and annual family income of $19,000 will receive both bursaries. The student will receive the $3,600 from the CSG-FT and $1,500 from the renewed program. The tuition remaining will be $5,150.

The amount of money granted to a student will depend on family size and income. Financial aid will decrease when the family income increases.

Tuition Tax Credit

Amendments to the Income Tax Act were introduced earlier in May of this year, to have the tuition tax credit back again.

The tuition tax credit was in force from 2004-2016. According to the New Brunswick government, the reintroduction of the tax credit will help students complement other financial aid programs that are currently in place.

The tax credit will be available for full-time and part-time students attending either private or public post-secondary institutions.

Students will be able to apply for the tuition tax credit while filing for their yearly tax returns starting in 2020.

The amendments introduced earlier this year will allow tax credits for 2017-2018 to be claimed for the 2019 and subsequent years.

According to the NB government between 2004 and 2016, 34,000 students claimed the tuition tax credit annually, and in 2016, more than half of the students who applied for the tax credit had taxable incomes of $50,000 or less.