CAMPBELLTON (GNB) – The provincial government will invest $3.4 million to help more students access post-secondary education.

“Education is the key to unlocking a prosperous economy and an even better quality of life here in New Brunswick,” said Premier Brian Gallant. “Investments in education and training help increase the competitiveness of New Brunswick businesses and industries. Education also contributes to the health of our families and communities. It is for these reasons we are working hard to make university and college education more accessible and affordable.”

Effective Aug. 1, the government will implement changes to the provincial portion of the Canada Student Loans Program. This means that many students will be eligible for greater levels of financial assistance. Following the changes, students will only be expected to provide a fixed contribution between $1,500 and $3,000 per academic year based on their family income and family size. Students may apply online for financial assistance from the provincial government for the 2017-18 academic year beginning June 1.

"We are pleased with the decision by the government to implement changes to the provincial student loan assessment,” said Robert Burroughs, executive director of the New Brunswick Student Alliance. “This will make more money available to more students while significantly decreasing the variability of assessment amounts. It also means students will no longer be punished for working in-study and during their summers.”

This effort will also benefit adult learners, many of whom may work while studying or have spouses whose income would have been considered in determining eligibility. In addition, indigenous students, students with permanent disabilities, students with dependent children, and current or former children in permanent care will be exempt from making any contribution.

“This policy change will have a positive impact on persons with a disability who are under-represented in post-secondary education, often due to barriers such as cost,” said Haley Flaro, executive director of Ability New Brunswick. “Persons with a disability often have added costs such as accessible transportation, assistive technology and accessible housing, and standard financial assistance formulas often do not consider these costs. We applaud this policy change to improve access to post-secondary education on the pathway to jobs for persons with a disability.”

Under the current system, applicants are required to estimate assets and income amounts months in advance of the academic year.

“Through these changes, your government will help low- and middle-income students to better save, budget and plan for their future,” said Post-Secondary Education, Training and Labour Minister Donald Arseneault. “The changes will help more students continue to work and gain valuable job experience without having to worry about a reduction in their level of financial assistance.”

A variety of financial assistance programs are available to students, including Tuition Relief for the Middle Class, the Free Tuition Program, the Timely Completion Benefit, New Brunswick Employment Insurance Connect Program and the New Brunswick Bursary.