February 2, 2011

(Halifax) – Elected student representatives have mixed feelings about Tuesday’s announcement on tuition and university funding from the Minister of Advanced Education. Students are concerned about the decision to allow tuitions to increase, but hopeful that promised student assistance reforms will more than offset this increase for the province’s neediest students.

The government plan includes the removal of the tuition freeze introduced by the previous government and the introduction of a cap that will allow increases in tuition by up to three percent. There will be a 4 per cent cut to the universities’ operating grant, which equates to almost $ 14 Million in reduced funding, while the costs of operating a university continue to rise.

“Students will be expected to pay more into a system that continues to be underfunded by government,” says Alliance of Nova Scotia Student Associations Chairman, Rob LeForte. “Nova Scotia will continue to have the lowest per-student funding in Canada.”

The government has also renewed the provincial bursary program that, if lost, would have resulted in an additional 22 per cent jump in tuition fees for students originally from Nova Scotia.

“This is a significant investment from government that we hope to see continued, not just next year, but also in future years,” added LeForte.

The government reaffirmed their commitment to reform student assistance, after acknowledging this fall that the program is one of the weakest in the country. No firm details have been provided in this announcement, but student representatives have been assured a follow-up meeting will happen by the end of the month.

“The danger is in the unknown right now,” worries ANSSA Executive Director, Mark Coffin. “We can’t say that students will be better served under this plan, but our hope is that the improvements will be generous enough that students will be more than protected from tuition increases by student aid improvements.”

“Right now Nova Scotia has one of the worst student assistance programs in North America and the most debt-ridden graduates in the country,” adds Coffin.

“Investments in universities and in programs that reduce student debt will make us more economically competitive as a province and make young people more likely to live, work and invest in our local economies. We can’t think of these investments as a cost to be contained as in other areas of government spending.”

Students are encouraged by the Minister’s commitment to invite students to discussions to develop the next three year funding arrangement for universities that will take effect in 2012.