April 7, 2017

Provincial Budget Forces Students Further into Debt

ST. JOHN’S – Students are facing an uncertain and indebted future after yesterday’s provincial budget announced a dramatic shift in the student aid system, forcing post-secondary students to rely heavily on loans.

A limited tuition freeze, cuts to Memorial University’s operating grant and the further erosion of years of debt relief offered by the need-based grants program are among the measures peddled as support for post-secondary students in Budget 2017.  

“Newfoundlanders and Labradorians know that a well-funded, accessible system of post-secondary education is important to our future economic and social prosperity,” said Alex Noel, Newfoundland and Labrador Chairperson. “The government’s misrepresentation of the tuition freeze and student financial assistance proves they are more concerned with cutting spending than taking steps to ensure economic opportunity for the next generation.”

The Government has highlighted a tuition fee freeze as a cornerstone of this budget. However, not all Newfoundland and Labrador students will be protected by the province’s tuition fee freeze. The Government’s insistence on only supporting ‘our students’ could mean that out-of-province and international students may see fee hikes this September.

An additional $3 million has been cut to MUN this year, on top of the $34 million cut to the operating grant since 2015. Last year, these cuts were downloaded directly onto the backs of students through a 30% fee hike for medical students, average fee hikes of 10.4% for graduate students and 12.8% for international graduate students, and residence fee hikes of as much as 30%.

The most alarming announcement in the 2017 Budget was the Government’s move to remodel student financial assistance, pushing Newfoundland and Labrador students to rely more heavily on the Canada Student Loans Program (CSLP). Under the new ‘sequential’ model of aid, money will first be issued by CSLP and upon maxing out the available loan limit, students will then be able to access money through Newfoundland and Labrador Student Aid. Unlike Newfoundland and Labrador’s previous grants-based system, the CSLP is 70% loans-based.

“The government is touting the student aid remodeling as $12.6 million in savings, when in reality this means bigger debt loads and higher interest rates for student loans,” said Noel. “It’s hard to believe that only 2 years ago students in Newfoundland and Labrador were celebrating the elimination of provincial student loans. Backtracking on this achievement by further indebting students is a massive step backwards.”

The Canadian Federation of Students represents every public college and university student in Newfoundland and Labrador.

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For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Michael Walsh at m.walsh@cfs-nl.ca.