Students Nova Scotia


Press Releases & Updates

Case studies demonstrate financial barriers to post-secondary education in Nova Scotia

For Immediate Release

Halifax, NS – A report released this morning by Students Nova Scotia demonstrates the financial challenges facing many post-secondary students in Nova Scotia. Making Sense of Fees, Debt and Unmet Need: Case Studies in Nova Scotia Post-Secondary Student Finance outlines how changes in student assistance programs, fees and other costs have impacted on eight hypothetical students since 2004. The results show the difficult circumstances facing many Nova Scotia students and how different policies would address these challenges.

“This report should be a wake-up call for our government, universities and community college to ensure all Nova Scotians can afford post-secondary education in our province,” said Brandon Hamilton, StudentsNS President. “We have made some progress, but still have a long way to go to have a fully accessible and affordable post-secondary system.”

The case studies demonstrate that most Nova Scotian families are reliant on government financial assistance and would incur significant debt to attend post-secondary education; debt to the tune of $28,560 for an undergraduate degree.

The case studies also show that certain students cannot access sufficient money to pursue post-secondary education, in particular low-income single-mothers and especially at the university level. These students’ circumstances have not significantly improved since 2004 given restrictions on maximum financial assistance.

“The student assistance program fails to adequately support students with the greatest financial need”, said StudentsNS Executive Director, Jonathan Williams. “It is practically impossible for certain Nova Scotians to pursue post-secondary education, including single mothers who are hoping to improve their families’ circumstances.”

The report does show progress in reducing debt levels for undergraduate students who receive the highest amounts of financial aid, most significantly through the introduction of the debt cap program. Students with relatively less financial need have seen their debt increase. Debt levels remain highest for students who take longer to complete their programs, including notably students with disabilities.

“The debt cap program has significantly reduced debt levels for many undergraduates with high financial need”, said Williams. “More must be done to reduce debt levels for community college students and to address relatively higher debt levels among students with disabilities, who often take longer to complete their studies.”

Finally, the report shows that university tuition fell slightly for Nova Scotia residents, although these reductions were entirely offset by increases in ancillary fees at most Nova Scotia universities. Community college and international students, on the other hand, continued to experience significant tuition growth.

Students from Dalhousie, the Mount, King’s and NSCAD will be marching in Halifax on Wednesday, Feb. 4, to call for Provincial action on fees, student assistance and post-secondary funding.

The report is available at The case studies have also been posted to StudentsNS’ website at

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Students Nova Scotia is a not-for-profit and non-partisan advocacy group that represents 37,794 Nova Scotia post-secondary students, including 86% of the university student population. Our members study at Acadia, Cape Breton, Dalhousie, Saint Mary’s, and St. Francis Xavier Universities, the Kingstec Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College, and the Atlantic School of Theology.


For more information, please contact:

Jonathan Williams, StudentsNS Executive Director

Phone: 902 483 5480





Brandon Hamilton, StudentsNS President

Phone: 902 867 2435


Kate Elliot