The Honourable Joan Burke, Minister of Education, said
today that suggestions post-secondary tuition fees should be raised to
offset the impact of the current economic crisis is not something the
Government of Newfoundland and Labrador will consider. A recent report
by the Education Policy Institute said governments should allow tuition
fees to rise to offset endowment funds that have been hurt by the
recession and potential cuts in government funding.
"The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador does not
share this view," said Minister Burke. "In fact, we are leading the
nation in debt-reduction initiatives for our students and have
consistently increased funding to our post-secondary institutions. We
have every intention of maintaining this position, reflecting the level
of importance we place on education for the growth of individuals and
our overall growth as a province."
Minister Burke noted that in just five years, the
Provincial Government subsidy to Memorial University alone has increased
by 84 per cent, from $145.3 million to $266.9 million. This includes
funding to offset a freeze on tuition rates � a student aid initiative
that benefits all public post-secondary students in the province.
In addition, Budget 2007 allocated $44 million to
implement up-front, non-repayable grants, and a 2.5 per cent cut in the
interest on student loans. These and other investments, such as
additional funding for debt reduction grants, a reduction in parental
contributions, and an increase in the income threshold to qualify for
interest relief, mean that the Provincial Government�s investment in
every post-secondary student in the province has increased by 57 per
cent since 2003, from $8, 971 to $14, 119.
Such investments have been recognized by local and
national representatives of the Canadian Federation of Students who have
acknowledged the Williams Government is far ahead of other jurisdictions
in debt reduction initiatives and spending. The approach also appears to
be impacting students� decisions on where they will study.
Over the past five years, the number of students
leaving the province to study elsewhere in Atlantic Canada has decreased
by 54 per cent.
Last month, Minister Burke held a roundtable with
post-secondary students and graduates to discuss the best ways to reduce
student debt. "This government has already committed to maintaining the
freeze on tuition rates and we have no intention of changing our course
on that front," said Minister Burke. "My discussions with students and
graduates were extremely helpful in gaining insight into what they see
as the most productive ways to assist with the cost of post-secondary
education. These are now being fully explored as we look to building on
our past actions. This is not a time to abandon our post-secondary
students. Rather, it is a time to demonstrate support for the people who
will eventually lead our province, and continue with progressive
initiatives to benefit our students and our province."
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