Parental Contributions in Student Loans

On March 22, the NB Conservative government undid a huge step forward for New Brunswick. They re-introduced the parental contribution calculation for provincial student loans after the previous government had taken the progressive move to remove it, setting a precedent which other provinces soon followed. It’s really a shame that when something actually moves forward or changes in NB, you can’ be sure that the Torries are hard at work to regress us backwards. Yesterday, when I visited the Legislature, the Minister for Post-Secondary Education, Training, and Labour Martine Coulombe, and Wes McLean both talked about how parents should be expected to contribute to their children’s post-secondary education. Let’s think about that for a second.

First, I find the language that students and PSE institutions are “children” offensive. When I came to university, I had already voted and contributed to the future of my province. I was old enough to serve in the military. I had made a choice of my career path. I had taken out thousands of dollars of my own debt in order to be there. And I hadn’t even started classes yet. Students are not children; please stop treating us like we are.

I know all politicians are “family-oriented” by necessity, but the Torries take it to an extreme. Parents are expected to contribute, but there are no mechanism to oblige them to. Nor is there an appeals process when your estranged parent decides not to give you $2000 a year to help pay for tuition.

The decision to remove contributes saves the province a mere million dollars. When I say “save”, it’s a slight misnomer. It’s not like the universities in this province are asking for a million dollars less tuition; the government has shifted that million dollars from themselves to students and their families. How “family-oriented.”

In a province that needs long-term thinking to survive, the Conservatives have taken the myopic approach to governing.

Minister Coulombe als talked about how much she was consulting with students. She had 5 meetings with student stakeholders in only 4 months. Wow. So, when your job is to represent the province’s interests in students and you have about a meeting a month with them leading up to your budget, you don’t get to say that like it’s a good thing; you don’t get to act like you’re doing your job. When your job is to make policy about students and you can only find time to meet with them once a month before releasing a budget which profoundly and negatively impacts them, you have failed at your job.

Make no mistake: this is a bad decision for New Brunswick. There are students who will not be able to attend PSE because of this decision.

Posted on April 8, 2011