New Brunswick career colleges continue to press for tuition breaks for students

1 / 3
New Brunswick career colleges continue to press for tuition breaks for students

Private career colleges — excluded from New Brunswick's tuition aid for low-income students — remain concerned students are being penalized for choosing education options outside of government-run community colleges, says the president of Oulton College in Moncton.

Speaking at the college's open house this weekend, Darcie Robichaud said failing to extend tuition aid for eligible students who want to attend private career colleges limits their education choices

"Of course it's a concern. It's [about] the opportunities for the students to make the choice of the educational institution that they wish to attend."

""We continue to work with the government  to hope to find some reconciliation. But we'll continue to do and strive for the enrolment that we've always had."

Mitchell Caissie, a second-year student in the licensed practical nurse program at Oulton College, noted that his diploma program costs about $30,000.

But if he was attending a community college in a similar program, and if he qualified for the Tuition Access Bursary program, he could be eligible to have some, if not all, of his tuition covered. 

There is a "level of unfairness" that's upsetting, he said.

Caissie said he would still would have chosen the private college because of the shorter wait and duration of the program.

"At the moment that they made the announcement, I think everyone in private institutions were a little bit upset that some students got better benefits than we will," he said.

"But, I was already pushing forward through it, so I just chose not to really think much about it."

50 private colleges in province

Oulton College is one of 50 private career colleges in New Brunswick that were left out of the Tuition Access Bursary program.

The program can provide up to $10,000 a year for eligible students from families with a gross income of $60,000 or less.

Last, spring and summer, Robichaud was part of a working group looking to expand the program and include private post-secondary schools. 

She said the college provides quality education and graduates students that contribute to the workforce. Robichaud added that families and students who want to attend the college should have the same benefits as other taxpayers.

"We felt positive that we'd see some progress. But, to this point, we haven't had the result we were looking for. But, we will continue to be collaborative and do what we can do to have the evidence that we should be included," she said.

Tuition costs can be unmanageable

Mallory Wheeland, also a student at the college, said this is her first time attending college and she is finding the costs manageable through student loans. But she has seen tuition costs and the bursary program's limitations affect some of her classmates.

"At the beginning of the year, there was actually about three people who just dropped out because they simply couldn't afford it. They already had student loans from previous schools, and they just couldn't do it again," she said.

Earlier this year, three private post-secondary school students — two from Oulton College and one from Crandall University — filed notice of the intention to sue the New Brunswick government over the program. They claim the program violates the rights of students at private post-secondary school who are ineligible for the bursary. 

CBC was unable to obtain a comment from the New Brunswick government about the issue.