Religious university head defends student aid program

N.B. program would limit student debt at graduation, even for private institutions

The CBC is reporting that the president of one of the New Brunswick’s three religious universities is defending the province’s decision to include the school’s students in a new debt-limiting program, despite the fact that the institution is private.

Critics argue that private universities shouldn’t be getting financial help while public universities are starved for cash.

The provincial government announced the Timely Completion Benefit in May. In the program, all  post-secondary students who qualifies for the benefit will not have to pay back more than $26,000 in federal and provincial student loans as long as they graduate within the program’s set timeframe.

David Medders, the president of Bethany Bible College in Sussex, told the CBC that the the debt-cap program benefits students and not the school’s operating budget. He said it’s absurd to say the religious school shouldn’t be eligible for any government programs just because it’s private.

“If you took that [argument to its] logical conclusions, we shouldn’t receive city water because part of the taxpayers money in Sussex supports a town water system,” says Medders. “So you have to have some common sense, somewhere along the line in this. And I think where the government has struck that line — we call it a pluralistic society, and it’s mutual respect.”

Miriam Jones, a professor at the University of New Brunswick in Saint John, told the CBC that the decision to allow these religious school to have access to the student debt-cap policy is a bad idea. She says the colleges are allowed to have Christian-only hiring policies because they’re private and that status should extend to funding.

“They shouldn’t get any public money unless they’re part of the public system and willing to subscribe to the standards and meet the criteria that the rest of us have to meet,” she says.

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