March 31, 2008

(Halifax) – The Alliance of Nova Scotia Student Associations (ANSSA), representing the vast majority of undergraduate, professional and graduate students in Nova Scotia, is pleased that their efforts to influence the outcome of today’s announcement have been successful.

In the May 2006 Speech from the Throne, the government made a commitment to “make the cost of obtaining a typical undergraduate degree in Nova Scotia comparable to the national average within five years.” However, until today, the government did not have a plan set out establishing how these reductions would take place. ANSSA has been forcefully advocating that a detailed plan be developed outlining a year-by-year schedule for tuition fee reductions. The MacDonald government responded to student concerns today with the announcement of a tuition fee reduction framework in the form of the “University Student Bursary Trust Fund.” “This is a clear demonstration of the government’s commitment to collaborating with students to make university more affordable,” said ANSSA Chair, Mike Tipping. “This puts us squarely on the right path, but we have a long way to go before we can use education to tackle the problems that face Nova Scotia.”

“Different tuition fees for students from Nova Scotia and those who have moved to Nova Scotia is short-sighted” said Tipping. “We need students from all over Canada to continue attending our institutions if our university system is going to remain competitive and we need nurses from New Brunswick and engineers from Ontario who will stay in Nova Scotia after they graduate. The government has missed an opportunity to invest in the future of Nova Scotia and has instead chosen short-term political gain over the long-term health of the province.” Despite the differential fees, ANSSA was pleased that students had a role in negotiating the Memorandum of Understanding and were generally satisfied with the document as a whole. “There are a number of areas, however, that require immediate attention,” said Paris Meilleur, Executive Director of ANSSA. “In particular, deferred maintenance continues to be a persistent problem that is not addressed adequately in this MOU.”

Students are also concerned that this MOU does not address the long-term sustainability of Nova Scotia’s system of post-secondary education. The updated funding formula and transition funding will keep institutions with declining enrolments in operation for the duration of the MOU, but there remain significant questions around the sustainability of schools like Acadia and Cape Breton University in year four.

“All groups and individuals concerned with Nova Scotia’s future economic and social prosperity should be concerned with undertaking a comprehensive review of higher education in our province,” said Tipping. “A review of this nature needs to start as soon as possible and should be one that seeks to address fundamental questions around how our system of universities and colleges can support our wide-ranging priorities, from poverty reduction to rowing theknowledge-based economy. We need a vision for education in Nova Scotia.” Presidents from student unions all over Nova Scotia will be gathering at Dalhousie University tomorrow morning to announce their reactions to the MOU and discuss where the government should go from here.