University Funding in Nova Scotia OpEd

first_imgLast week, I met with university student leaders to outline the steps we’re taking to ensure a university education remains affordable in Nova Scotia and to help universities remain competitive and sustainable for years to come. The first part of our plan is to cap tuition increases annually at three per cent. For Nova Scotia undergraduate students that means an average increase of about $154 per year. For out-of-province undergraduate students, the average increase is about $185 per year. We will also continue to fund the Nova Scotia University Student Bursary Program, for Nova Scotia and out of province students, which provides $29 million each year to reduce the cost of tuition. These measures follow a tuition fee freeze, then a roll-back, to address the problems that had been created by years of unchecked fee increases. They will keep tuition at a Nova Scotia university at or below the national average for Nova Scotia students. They will help to make university affordable, but I realize that they may not be enough. The report by Dr. Tim O’Neill stated that Nova Scotia has a very weak student assistance program. I agree. The premier agrees. University students clearly agree, too. I recently received a report outlining common themes from public meetings on student assistance held in November. It is clear that students want us to focus our efforts on capping the amount of student debt, improving the loan-to-grant ratio so students have to pay back less money, and provide financial assistance to those students who need it most. We agree with those priorities and have made some inroads. Within the next few weeks, I will meet again with student leaders to discuss the establishment of a debt cap, comparable to those in other jurisdictions, loan limits and a change to the loan-to-grant ratio, based on need. The debt cap will also reduce the need for graduates to leave the province because of high debt loads. The Graduate Retention Rebate also provides eligible graduates with a maximum tax credit of $2,500 per year in the year of graduation and in each of the next five years to a maximum of $15,000 over the six-year period. When you pair these with our government’s efforts to attract new, cutting-edge businesses and investors to the province, our graduates will have significant opportunities to live, work and prosper in Nova Scotia. We have told the universities that their grant will be reduced by four per cent this year and that we will discuss future grant changes with them. We are not asking universities to do anything other than what all areas of the public sector are doing. We all have a responsibility to live within our means. We are confident that university boards, many of which are made up of business leaders used to dealing with tight budgets, will deal with these financial circumstances and make it work. In April, the province will begin working on a new funding arrangement for universities to cover 2012-15. Both universities and students will be involved in the discussions. We know there is strong value in a post-secondary education and we are fortunate enough to have top-quality institutions and a variety of programs available in our own province. I look forward to working with the universities and the students in the weeks and months ahead to ensure as many students as possible can access the first-class programs that Nova Scotia’s universities offer. -30-last_img read more

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