Government Direction on Universities Incoherent and Damaging
For Immediate Release
Halifax, NS – On Tuesday, Minister Kelly Regan delivered the most significant speech of her time in office to date, indicating the government’s direction with respect to Nova Scotia’s ten universities. The speech was short on details, but still indicated significant and often contradictory policies. She most significantly opened the door for tuition increases, including an unprecedented expansion of differential fees for out-of-province students.
“The Minister’s statement sends a clear message: this government is breaking new ground in making Nova Scotia a difficult place for students and young people”, said StudentsNS Executive Director Jonathan Williams. “The Province aims to increase student fees and reduce financial assistance in ways that will introduce new risks for Nova Scotia’s universities without in any way addressing their fundamental financial problems.”
The Minister stated firmly that universities have inadequate funding to be successful, but also have inadequate transparency and accountability mechanisms in place for the public to feel confident in how they are spending their money. At different points, government representatives have referred to $50-$100 million shortfalls in university budgets.
“It’s puzzling that a Minister could indicate universities are not sufficiently accountable and transparent, but in the same speech grant them more control over fees than anywhere else in Canada”, said Williams. “This proposed accountability legislation sounds promising and we are anxious to see what it specifically entails, but the overall government’s understanding of accountability seems shallow at best.”
The Minister suggested that the Province will allow universities to set tuition for out-of-province students, power that no other province in Canada currently grants its universities. At the same time, Nova Scotians will no longer be eligible for the debt cap program to complete undergraduate degrees outside the Province, increasing their possible costs by as much as $14,688. For students who have already begun studies outside of Nova Scotia, they will not be eligible for the program as of 2015-16.
“Nova Scotia educates more students from the rest of Canada than any other province and many of them end up building or wanting to build their lives here”, said Callie Lathem, StudentsNS VP University Affairs. “Nova Scotia will suffer the most if each province battles to keep their own students in-province, yet we are about to be the most aggressive in seeking to retain our own students and take advantage of students from away. It makes no sense that we would make our universities much less inviting and place an awfully unfair burden on these students, especially if they want to stay after graduation.”
Finally, the Minister indicated that the Debt Cap program will be extended for students with disabilities to forgive provincial loans for the full length of studies. This reflects a recommendation from StudentsNS and addresses shortfalls in the prior design of the Debt Cap.
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Students Nova Scotia is a not-for-profit and non-partisan advocacy and research group that represents post-secondary students from across Nova Scotia. Our members include Acadia, Cape Breton, 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, Executive Director
Phone: 902 483 5480
Callie Lathem, VP University Affairs
Phone: 902 585 2131