Halifax, N.S. —A prosperous and sustainable future for Nova Scotia depends on the province’s ability to tap the potential of international students, according to a report released today by StudentsNS. The report finds that international students are critically important to Nova Scotia as potential immigrants, pupils in our classrooms, and cultural and economic contributors. However, the government and our universities may be squandering this opportunity by failing to support these students’ successful integration.
“Nova Scotia’s 18-29 year-old population will have shrunk 25% between 2011 and 2031, with serious impacts on every facet of our society, including university enrolment,” said StudentsNS Executive Director Jonathan Williams. “We predict that our universities will have to double the number of international students by 2031 just to keep enrolment at current levels. If we support these students’ integration into our communities and labour market, they could represent an immensely valuable cohort of new Nova Scotians and help mitigate the demographic decline.”
The report argues that the Province, universities and student unions should work together to create an international education strategy. “Other jurisdictions, like BC, are leading the way with integrated strategies, but Nova Scotia is falling behind,” said Williams.
The report also recommends that Nova Scotia cap international student tuition at the amount universities receive for each domestic student through public funding and tuition. Currently, undergrad international student tuition is at $13,106 and can be raised arbitrarily each year well beyond inflation. StudentsNS also recommends that universities gradually waive differential fees (i.e., charge domestic tuition rates) for 5% of international students, so strong students with low incomes can access Nova Scotia universities.
StudentsNS found a disturbing disconnect between the resources universities receive for international students and the funding actually allocated to international student services. As Williams explained, “each year, Nova Scotia universities receive $30 million from the Province based on their international enrolment, but they are not required to spend that money supporting international students, and actually don’t report where that money is going at all. International student services are generally under-resourced, so the universities have to explain where the funding is going.”
StudentsNS recommends that this provincial funding be redirected into two envelopes, with transparent reporting mechanisms. A Language Education Grant would fund in-study ESL programming, supporting institutional guarantees that international graduates will have the language fluency required for immigration or will receive up to six months of tuition-free language education after graduation. An International Student Services Grant would ensure international student centres and other targeted services have the funding they need to facilitate students’ adaptation to Nova Scotia campuses and communities.
Finally, the report also argues for stronger employment programs to help students succeed in Nova Scotia’s labour market and ultimately immigrate. “We know from talking with students and graduates that many want to stay here but can’t find opportunities to do so,” said Williams. “Our high youth unemployment is devastating for would-be immigrants, who also need to break down barriers like unfamiliarity with local workplace culture and – reprehensibly – discrimination in hiring. We can’t afford for it to be this way in Nova Scotia.”