April 26, 2007

Budget 2007 Actions Support the Vision for an Affordable
and Accessible Post-Secondary Education System

The Williams Government continues to increase spending in post-secondary education with initiatives that speak directly to the needs of current students, graduates of the province�s post-secondary institutions and priorities identified for the post-secondary system.

Budget 2007 will see the Provincial Government enhancing financial assistance with a $14.4 million investment to help current and former students reduce their debt-load. The Provincial Government will also provide over $70 million for a new residence at Memorial University�s Paton College, and a new residence and construction of additional academic and research space at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College in Corner Brook.

"Government recognizes very clearly the impact a high debt-load can have on graduates," said the Honourable Joan Burke, Minister of Education. "We want our graduates to establish themselves in Newfoundland and Labrador and we are continuing to take actions that make our post-secondary education system both affordable and accessible."

At a student roundtable in March, student representatives, as well as former students, outlined steps they believe will have the greatest impact on lowering debt. In response, and to further cement this province�s status as having the best student aid package in the country, the Provincial Government has made the following changes to the Student Loan Program, valued at $14.4 million:

  • Interest charged on student loans will be reduced from prime plus 2.5 per cent to prime, at a cost of $3.7 million annually. This will have an immediate and direct impact on 46,000 people who are in repayment of their student loans; and,
  • An introduction of an up-front, needs-based grant program, providing financial assistance of approximately $10.7 million annually.
  • Students can currently borrow a maximum of $140 a week on the provincial portion of their student loan. The new grant program will reduce that amount up to $70 a week. The other $70 will be provided as an up-front, non-repayable grant. This will provide the same level of funding, while cutting in half the amount of money students with the highest need will borrow. In addition, this is the first time since the loan program was introduced that students in one- and two-year programs at the College of the North Atlantic and private colleges will qualify for a non-repayable grant.

    "We are on the cutting-edge of student aid assistance in the country. Newfoundland and Labrador is now leading the country with the lowest interest rate on student loans. There can be no clearer indication of this government�s commitment to our students than the investments we are making to support them," said Minister Burke. "Today�s announcement is in addition to the current Debt Reduction Program which is designed to substantially lower a student�s provincial loan at the end of their program of study, and the $90 million White Paper on Post-Secondary Education, which includes a freeze on tuition fees."

    The Williams Government also recognizes that for post-secondary institutions to remain competitive, they must have state-of-the-art facilities and equipment to attract new students, faculty and researchers.

    "To that end, government is announcing a five-year, $62 million residence construction program for Memorial University and Sir Wilfred Grenfell College," said Minister Burke. "New residences will be built while some of the older residences will be upgraded to meet current standards. In 2007-08, $11.3 million is budgeted to begin the design and planning phase of the projects. These investments are necessary to ensure the successful recruitment of students, and will also improve accessibility to university for students from rural Newfoundland and Labrador."

    The minister also announced the approval of $8.8 million over the next two years for the construction of additional academic and research space at Sir Wilfred Grenfell College. The new building will ensure Grenfell�s growth and expansion and will ultimately have economic development benefits for the entire region.

    "Additional investments in Memorial University, both in St. John�s and Corner Brook, support its work to be nationally competitive," the minister said. "I look forward to working with the university as we consider the best and most strategic ways of meeting its infrastructure requirements."

    White Paper initiatives and recent investments in the public college system are designed to position College of the North Atlantic to address shortages in the skilled trades. Students must have the education and training to take full advantage of emerging opportunities. With 17 campuses throughout Newfoundland and Labrador and additional funding for programming and learning resources, College of the North Atlantic continues to build capacity to respond to and reflect regional needs.

    "As recently announced in the Northern Strategic Plan, a new facility will be built for the Labrador West campus of College of the North Atlantic," said Minister Burke. "This will be a multi-million dollar project in keeping with this vibrant and growing community, with programming that is well-matched to the particular needs of the region."

    Other Budget 2007 Investments in College of the North Atlantic Include:

  • $2 million for facility improvements, renovations and equipment upgrades;
  • $660,000 for programming in skilled trades and technology, as part of overall Budget 2007 investments for the Skills Training and Apprenticeship system;
  • $600,000 to improve disability access at the Burin campus; and,
  • $450,000 to expand the delivery of Early Childhood Education programming, at the Corner Brook and Happy Valley-Goose Bay campuses.
  • "Investments in education span many sectors and impact the growth and development of our province and our people," said Minister Burke. "As noted in this year�s funding to promote research and development, $1 million has been allocated for the creation of a School of Ocean Technology at the Marine Institute. Government is also making substantial investments in the area of apprenticeship and skilled trades training. These are important investments as we position ourselves to take advantage of exciting new opportunities."

    Other Budget 2007 Investments in Memorial University Include:

  • $7.4 million for deferred maintenance and White Paper initiatives and equipment;
  • $800,000 for a national and international marketing campaign to increase undergraduate and graduate enrolment and increase revenues from donors and others;
  • $200,000 for the recruitment of international students, support services and internships to encourage students to stay in the province, which underpins the province�s Immigration Strategy; and,
  • $500,000 to support distance education learning opportunities at the university, providing greater access and flexibility in a student�s scheduling.
  • The Provincial Government is also investing $140,000 to enhance a strategic literacy plan. Details of these and other initiatives of Budget 2007 will be announced in the coming weeks.

    "Our ability to compete and keep pace with new technologies, research and development, depend critically upon the investments we make today in our education system and in our people. We are ensuring that our students attend world-class facilities, in a system that is affordable and accessible," said Minister Burke.

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    1. $14.4 Million to Support Students in School and in Repayment

    Media contact:
    Jacquelyn Howard
    Director of Communications
    Department of Education
    709-729-0048, 689-2624

    2007 04 26                                             2:10 p.m.

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