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To demonstrate changes in the circumstances and challenges facing students since StudentsNS was created in 2004, StudentsNS has conducted a number of case studies on the resources and costs that students must navigate to attend post-secondary education in Nova Scotia. These case studies are not perfect and certainly cannot capture all the circumstances of the more than 50,000 students attending post-secondary education in Nova Scotia. They do, however, provide a picture of how students’ circumstances have changed, the impact of different policy decisions made by government, and the impact of policies advanced by StudentsNS.

  • Lesra Martin, dependent student from a median-income family, living off-campus and studying at Saint Mary’s University.
  • Valerie O’Brien, dependent student from a median-income family, living off-campus and studying at the Kingstec Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College.
  • Paige Jennings, dependent student from a median-income family, living at home and studying at Cape Breton University.
  • Anne Shirley, dependent student from a high-income Prince Edward Island family, studying at Acadia.
  • Melanda Tolliver, low-income dependent student with a disability, studying at King’s.
  • Juno MacGuff, low-income single student with one child, studying at StFX.
  • Lou Cardoza, married student with a child, studying at the Waterfront Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College.
  • Zhang Wen Li, middle-income single Chinese graduate student, studying at Dalhousie.

Notes of caution:

  • The models account for government funding provided through the Canada Student Loans Program and the Nova Scotia Student Assistance Program. This does not include student financial aid available through other programs, such as those based on applicants’ employment status, receipt of social assistance or ethnicity. Some disability-related funding is included as it is processed through the Federal and Provincial assistance programs.
  • Students’ expenses should be viewed as probably exceeding those indicated. Assessments of costs are based principally on needs assessments used within the Canada Student Loans Program and the Nova Scotia Student Assistance Program. We could not track these costs perfectly and have focused principally on large cost drivers (notably residence and childcare costs) and taken a conservative approach relative to lesser costs, not including them in many cases. As indicated in the models and in StudentsNS’ work on the student assistance program, student assistance program cost assessments are certainly imperfect. We are providing reasonable approximations based on the available data.
  • Every case study except for Melanda Tolliver’s assumes that the student completes their program successfully with a full course load for every semester (i.e. 4-year and 2-year programs in four and two years respectively). In reality, most undergraduates do not complete their programs in four years, and the same is true for many students in 2-year NSCC programs. Costs rise for students who take longer to complete their studies.
  • Figures are provided in nominal dollars for the years 2004 and 2014-15, meaning that the comparison numbers are not inflation-adjusted and therefore based on dollars of equal value. As a result, figures for 2004 are generally understated relative to 2014-15. For example, where debt is reduced in nominal terms, the debt reduction in real dollars is even more significant.
  • Figures on debt and unmet need over the course of a full program are approximate, we have not adjusted for the great majority of year-to-year changes in costs over the length of full programs because this would require rebuilding the models for each individual year, a highly onerous task.
  • The case studies are not intended to be representative of whole groups of people who identify with a particular geographic origin, gender, ethnicity, disability-status, marital status, etc. The case studies are instead intended to represent individuals who might fall within these groups and indicate the costs and financial resources available student based on students’ circumstances and how they interact with costs and student assistance program policies. For example, the case study of the student from PEI is not in any way intended to suggest that all out-of-province students come from high-income backgrounds, just there was no use in making the student have significant financial need for the purpose of our models as she would not receive support from the NS student assistance program, and we did want to be honest as to students with high incomes and how their circumstances have changed.
  • We have sought characters from films or television for each case study, based upon individuals or played by actors who have an Atlantic Canada connection (whenever possible) and are of diverse ethnic descents (Aboriginal, African, East-Asian, European, South-Asian).