04/15/2016 11:46 EDT | Updated 04/15/2016 12:00 EDT

New Brunswick Announces Free University Tuition For Low-Income Families

While New Brunswick offers more post-secondary tuition grants, Newfoundland takes them away.

Province of New Brunswick press release

The province of New Brunswick is offering free post-secondary tuition for students from low-income families.

Premier Brian Gallant announced Thursday that families with household incomes of $60,000 or less are eligible for the new program.

"We are doing this so university and college tuition can be free for low income and many middle class New Brunswick families," Gallant said in a press release.

The province has earmarked $14.5 million for Tuition Access Bursary which will top-up federal grants to fully cover the student's tuition.

The only catch: the money is available only to students who will attend universities and colleges in New Brunswick, as

as part of a push to increase enrollment there.

The new tuition program is restricted to only post-secondary schools in the province, like the University of New Brunswick.

According to the Maritime Province Higher Education Commission, New Brunswick recorded a 5.9 per cent decline in home university enrollment last year. Some have attributed that to a decreased youth population, while others say it's because of crippling student debt.

Earlier this month, about 50 students from the University of Moncton showed up at the provincial legislature to bring attention to a lack of action on changes to the grant program, reported CBC News.

They wore shirts emblazoned with the number 35,200 — according to the New Brunswick Student Alliance, that's the average debt a student in the province graduates with, which is the highest in the country.

Grants to start 2016-17

Thursday's announcement drew praise from the group.

“By directing resources to the students who need it most when they need it most, government is dramatically improving financial aid and increasing access," said Lindsay Handren, the alliance's executive director.

Students can expect the grants to take effect in the 2016-2017 academic year.

Meanwhile in Newfoundland and Labrador

The student grant program was an idea taken up with great fanfare by Newfoundland and Labrador. But less than a year after implementing it, the province is returning to student loans.

Last summer, Newfoundland and Labrador decided to convert student loans to non-repayable grants.

On Thursday, Finance Minister Cathy Bennett said a financial crisis has forced the province to roll back the program. With a budget deep in the red partly due to a drop in oil revenues, Bennett cut the grants.

The province also announced that it will be scrapping $14 million in funding to Memorial University.

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