New Brunswick budget to hike funding for post-secondary education, students

N.B. budget to hike funding for colleges

FREDERICTON — The New Brunswick government will increase funding in some key areas of higher education by just over five per cent in a provincial budget to be tabled Tuesday.

A government source with knowledge of the budget to be presented by Finance Minister Cathy Rogers says the 5.4 per cent hike includes grants to community colleges, and funding for “research and strategic initiatives.”

The source said it will also mean a five per cent increase in funds available for student financial assistance for both university and community college students.

There is also an increase in university grants, although details were not available.

The increase takes funding for those areas from almost $162 million last year to $170.3 million in the upcoming budget — the Liberals’ third.

The province has restrained spending in many departments in recent years as it attempts to move gradually towards a balanced budget.

Last year’ s budget raised the harmonized sales tax by two percentage points to 15 per cent, cut the size of the civil service by more than 1,000 positions and privatized some services.

The province has a $13.4 billion debt — $18,000 for every man, woman and child in the province.

A third quarter update on finances said the projected deficit for 2016-17 will come in at $331 million, if the contingency fund is included.

The financial update also painted a picture of an economy that has taken some hits in its export sector in the past year.

Economic growth for the province was 0.4 per cent for 2016, though there’s been growth in consumer spending, and the population has grown by roughly the same amount due to a hike in international immigration since July 2015.

Employment growth in the province was flat for 2016 due in part to the closure of a potash mine.

The Canadian Press

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