Valerie O’Brien is a dependent student completing a two-year diploma at the Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) Kingstec Campus in Kentville. Her parents earn a median income ($47,700 in 2004; $61,500 in 2014-15). She lives in a rented apartment.

Our model assumes that Valerie:

  • Completes her program in two years
  • Lives with at least one roommate in a rented apartment throughout her program
  • Earns a sufficient income through summer work to cover her summer living costs and meet student assistance program expected contributions
  • Does not work part-time during the school year
  • Does not receive any other form of financial assistance
Debt at Graduation

Total Unmet Need



Total Costs$8,407$11,831$11,831
Ancillary fees$350$600$600
Total Resources$8,407$11,831$11,831
Federal Grants$0$900$900
Federal Loans$5,181$6,473$6,473
Provincial Grants$0$0$344
Provincial Loans$0$0$0
Summer employment contributions$2,145$3,064$3,064
Parental contributions$1,081$1,394$1,050
Debt ReliefNone.Repayment Assistance Plan linked to income and repayment time (max 15 years).Repayment Assistance Plan linked to income and repayment time (max 15 years).

Take Aways:

  • Even at the relatively low-cost NSCC, students from middle-income families rely heavily on student assistance, although the program does not leave students with unmet need.
  • Valerie benefits significantly from our assumption of adequate summer earnings. If she cannot find work over the summer that allows her to save, her need for financial assistance will increase significantly. If Valerie cannot find any work over the summer, she will be on the hook for rent and other living costs that could make her financial circumstances even more difficult.
  • Valerie’s debt total has increased since 2004, particularly as she does not have sufficient financial need to be eligible for provincial assistance.
  • Whereas in many of our university case studies tuition had fallen between 2004 and 2014-15 (as a result of the Nova Scotia University Student Bursary), tuition has risen significantly at the NSCC (+37%).

Key Recommendations:

  • When assessing student assistance applications, the Nova Scotia Student Assistance Program’s calculation of expected resources should give consideration to additional student and/or family costs, including, but not limited to, registered retirement savings and registered education savings for dependent children or registered disability savings for any family members – Report: From Worst to First.
  • The Province of Nova Scotia should provide all provincial student financial assistance in the form of an up front grant for students studying at a public post-secondary institution in Nova Scotia – Report: From Worst to First.