FREDERICTON -- New Brunswick’s pledge to give free tuition to low and middle-income earners has prompted plenty of reaction; some viewing it as an opportunity for those who need it most, others saying it’s an unfair policy that could put some schools out of business.

On Thursday, the provincial government promised a chance for tuition at no cost for New Brunswick students coming from families earning $60,000 or less annually.

“We’re definitely hearing from both sides,” said UNBstudent unionpresident Katie Davey. “We’ve got some questions about how do I apply, am I eligible, etc.”

The government expects 7,100 New Brunswick students to be eligible for the program immediately.

“For some people, this means post-secondary is a reality,” said Davey.

The bursary will only be available to students who attend a publicly funded university or college. Career colleges, including the Atlantic Business College in Fredericton, are not eligible.

“It’s a death sentence,” said Karen Furlotte of the Atlantic Business College. “After being in business almost 40 years, it feels like government is trying to put us out of business.”

Furlotte says their exclusion is a discrimination against more than 3,000 students attending career colleges in the province.

“It’s definitely not a fair policy. It’s not fair to former graduates, it’s not fair to the private sector, and it’s certainly not fair to the taxpayer,” Furlotte says.

The provincial government says publicly funded institutions were the focus of this program, in an attempt to boost falling enrollment.

The new policy will take effect this fall.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Nick Moore.