FREDERICTON (GNB) – The provincial government today tabled amendments to the Post-Secondary Student Financial Assistance Act, which will make tuition free for New Brunswick students from low-income and many middle-class families.

“Education is one of our government’s top priorities because we believe it is the key to New Brunswick’s economic future,” said Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Francine Landry. “We also know that education can break the cycle of poverty and change the lives of families for generations. This historic legislation will help those who need it most: low-income and middle-class students.”

The amendments will create the Tuition Access Bursary to provide upfront financial assistance to qualifying students from families with an annual income of $60,000 or less and who are enrolled full-time in an undergraduate degree, diploma or certificate program at a publicly funded university or college in New Brunswick. The provincial government will pay the difference between the federal low-income or middle-income grant provided to an eligible student and the amount owing for that student’s tuition.

“We are making tuition free for low-income and many middle-class students, which will be a major incentive for students who otherwise would not have gone to university or college,” said Landry. “Research shows that the best way to help university and college students is to ensure that those who need the most support get it upfront.”

The bursary will be available to students for the timeline established for their program and will take effect at the beginning of the 2016-17 academic year (programs beginning on or after August 1). It is anticipated that 7,100 students will be eligible to immediately benefit from the bursary, which represents about 23 per cent of New Brunswick students in the province’s public post-secondary institutions.

In tabling this legislation, Landry noted the government’s commitment to make higher education more accessible for students in general.

“We know that many families can still have challenges paying for post-secondary education,” said Landry. “That is why we eliminated the parental or partner’s contribution from the needs assessment for provincial student loans last year. In addition to this new bursary, there are many programs available to help families with the costs of post-secondary education.

“With this new bursary, we are providing a major incentive to improve enrollment at our publicly funded universities and colleges and encouraging New Brunswick students to study here at home.”

The provincial government has also created or enhanced a suite of employment programs to help students gain work experience and develop skills during and after their studies, including the Youth Employment Fund and the Student Employment Experience Development program, wherein more placements were added while taking the politics out of the selection process.