Read the full copy of the report or a summary of recommendations. Click here to access Appendix A, or here for Appendices B and C.

For a quick reference fact sheet, click here.

Student financial assistance (SFA) programs are the primary instruments the governments of Canada and Nova Scotia use to reduce financial barriers to post-secondary education (PSE) access and reduce the debt burdens faced by students when they finish their studies. In this paper, we critically review the complex array of SFA policies and programs to: (i) encourage and assist Canadians to save for the education of their children; (ii) provide direct assistance to current students in need through student loan and/or grant programs; and (iii) help students manage the repayment of their debt and further subsidize investments in PSE through federal and provincial tax systems. Our analysis focuses on how these SFA programs and policies either promote or detract from the accessibility and affordability of PSE in Nova Scotia. Our key findings indicate that: access to Nova Scotia’s PSE system has changed little since the early 1990s; a lack of reliable systemic data makes it difficult to draw clear linkages between SFA policy and access to education; recent changes to SFA programs have already helped to reduce the cost and debt burdens on many students; and finally, government investments in pre-study savings programs and post-study tax credits heavily favour higher income Nova Scotians at the expense of promoting accessibility and affordability for individuals with the greatest financial need. Based upon these findings, StudentsNS recommends a package of incremental proposals aimed at creating the strongest, most progressive student financial assistance program in Canada. Our recommendations begin with a reallocation of poorly targeted provincial government funds to improve PSE accessibility and affordability for needy students and underrepresented groups. We seek to extend additional funding to students when they are studying and, at the same time, greatly reduce the burden of student debt for all provincial student loan borrowers.