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Report Calls for Fairness in Student Fees and University Funding

Halifax, N.S. —Nova Scotia’s universities must be funded more fairly based on students’ and the Province’s ability to pay, says a report released today by StudentsNS. The report, “Fairness in Nova Scotia University Funding: Who Pays and How Much?” recommends linking students’ tuition to their ability to find jobs and supporting education quality through stable and predictable university funding.

“Students and grads are facing high unemployment and falling earnings, even though in the next decade 70% of new jobs will require a post-secondary credential”, said StudentsNS Executive Director, Jonathan Williams. “If you add to this the fact that Nova Scotia students have among the world’s highest debt levels, we can’t afford higher and higher tuition.”

“Our economy clearly needs post-secondary graduates, but this report shows the personal returns for grads are declining”, said Kyle Power, StudentsNS Chair. “We can’t continue shifting university costs onto students.”

StudentsNS recommends that tuition be frozen at 0% growth, which is a real tuition reduction relative to inflation, until the difference between the employment rates for 20-24 year-olds and the rest of the workforce returns to pre-recession levels. When youth employment recovers, tuition growth would be frozen at inflation. The report recommends that government funding to universities grow at the rate of provincial economic growth (2.3% nominal growth expected in 2013).

“Provincial revenues generally grow at the same rate as the economy, so funding universities at this rate would reflect government’s ability to pay and ensure predictability for institutions,” said Bob Parker, author of the report and StudentsNS Director of Research. “This is a much more sustainable approach than in the past few years, as funding has been dramatically increased and then cut.”

The report’s other recommendations include: extending tuition regulation to international, medicine, law and dentistry students; full disclosure of estimated total program costs at admission; making the Nova Scotia University Student Bursary permanent and indexed to tuition; stricter rules around non-academic fees to guarantee student control; and common standards for financial reporting.

The report is the culmination of five months of research, including student consultations, interviews with key stakeholders and a review of university financial statements.

To access the report click here. For fact sheets summarizing some of the report findings click here.

Kate Elliot