March 28, 2014

Halifax, Nova Scotia – Students Nova Scotia welcomed the Province announcement today that it will cease charging Nova Scotia residents interest on their provincial student loans. It brings total investments in improving the Nova Scotia student assistance program to approximate $25 million in four years. At a cost of $1.6 million, the policy will reduce the debt costs for approximately 18,000 Nova Scotians by an average of $800.

“We’re happy to see that the Government has been listening to students and will eliminate interest on student loans”, said StudentsNS Executive Director, Jonathan Williams. “This investment will give students greater peace of mind that will not be burned by high borrowing costs after they graduate.”

 Since 2011, the Province has almost doubled the budget of the Nova Scotia Student Assistance Program. New investments include a debt gap that converts Nova Scotia student loans to grants for undergraduates’ first four years of study, increases in the general grant-loan ratio of student assistance from 80-20 to 60-40, and significant increases to the maximum assistance amount. StudentsNS recommended dramatic further changes to the Nova Scotia Student Assistance Program in a November report, including converting all loans to grants, eliminating the maximum assistance amount for students attending public post-secondary institutions in Nova Scotia, and significantly reducing expected parental and spousal contributions.

“Higher debt correlates with a greater likelihood that students will leave the Province after graduation,” said StudentsNS Chair Amy Brierley. “Investments in student financial assistance are important to support youth retention and ensure all Nova Scotians can afford to attend post-secondary education in our Province.”

In its budget release on Thursday, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced it is converting all its provincial student loans to grants, while also eliminating interest on past student loans and freezing tuition fees.

“Newfoundland and Labrador has taken the lead in supporting students with the greatest financial need and set an example Nova Scotia needs to emulate,” said Williams. “Nova Scotia cannot afford to fall further behind in supporting post-secondary affordability and reducing student debt, we have to support our youth to reverse our province’s demographic and economic decline.”

As well, StudentsNS continued to voice concern about the direction of the post-secondary education funding in Nova Scotia. The Province has yet to announce its tuition and funding policies for 2014-15. However, tuition has increased at 3% per year since 2011, well above the rate of inflation, while universities have seen a 10% funding reduction.

“We cannot continue to cut university funding and shift more costs onto our students”, said Brierley. “We hope that this announcement represents just the first of many steps this government will take to promote access, affordability and quality of post-secondary education in Nova Scotia.”

– 30 –

Students Nova Scotia (StudentsNS) is a not-for-profit and non-partisan advocacy group that represents 38,452 Nova Scotia post-secondary students, including 87% of the university student population. Our members study at Acadia, Cape Breton, Dalhousie, Saint Mary’s, and St. Francis Xavier Universities, the Kingstec Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College, and the Atlantic School of Theology.

For more information or questions, please contact:

Jonathan Williams, StudentsNS Executive Director

(O) 902.422.4068
(C) 902.483.5480
(E) [email protected]

or

Amy Brierley, StudentsNS Chair

(O) 902.867.2440
(C) 905.703.6721
(E) [email protected]