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1. In 2013/14, the Province issued $443 million in operating grants to universities and the NSCC.

2. In 2013/14, total revenues collected by Nova Scotia universities and the NSCC exceeded $1.4 billion.

3. Currently, 40 percent of Nova Scotia’s public post-secondary student population is comprised of out-of-province (28%) and international students (12%).

4. Student fees currently represent 40% of university revenues and 18% of NSCC revenues.

5. By 2031, Nova Scotia is projected to have 36,000 fewer 19-to-34 year olds than in 2011. Without significant increases in international recruitment, the viability


Nova Scotia has invested heavily in post-secondary education (PSE). Our PSE system is comprised of 10 different universities, 13 NSCC campuses, and dozens of private (for-profit) career colleges scattered throughout the province. In 2013/14, provincial operating grants to universities and the NSCC totaled $443 million (see Chart 1), or 4.7% of total provincial government spending.

When spending by other governments, the private sector, and individuals is added, Nova Scotia’s collective investment in PSE is second to none. Total PSE spending in 2012/13 was equivalent to 6.4% of the provincial budget, which outranked the proportionate investments of every country in the OECD. The top performing OECD country happens to be Canada, with a combined investment equivalent to 4.7% of the federal budget.


The total enrolment capacity of our PSE institutions already far exceeds local demand, with roughly 40% of our 55,000 public post-secondary students coming to Nova Scotia from another Canadian province or country (Charts 2 and 3 in PDF).

Meanwhile, Nova Scotia’s key domestic demographic for PSE enrollment – 18-29 year olds – is projected to shrink by 24% (or 36,000 people) between 2011 and 20312, which represents a huge potential threat to the viability of our PSE institutions.

A shrinking PSE system means settling for diminished returns on previous provincial investments in PSE. Clearly, it would also increase cost pressures on institutions. To remain viable and continue providing high quality education, institutions would require additional revenue through some combination of higher tuition and fees, larger provincial grants, and/or more funding from private – and potentially controversial – sources (e.g. donations, corporate partnerships)(Charts 4 and 5 in PDF).


To maintain enrollment levels and, by extension, their financial stability, Nova Scotia’s PSE institutions have two options: boost local enrollment or recruit new students from elsewhere.

There are strong equity-based arguments for boosting local enrolment, particularly among social groups with lower rates of PSE attendance (e.g. Aboriginal and African Nova Scotians, young males, low skill and retraining mature students). But these are long term projects and/or relatively small target populations.

Nova Scotia’s best prospects for maintaining enrollment are beyond Canada’s borders. International students have already become Nova Scotia’s sole source of university enrollment growth (e.g. in 2012-13, the 695 new international students exceeded net system growth of 654).

Meanwhile, after growing by 67% from 1995-2011, NSCC enrollment doubling enrollment has leveled off at approximately 11,000 primarily Nova Scotian students.

If the recent trends hold (as expected), Nova Scotia will need to roughly double its international student population to maintain current levels of enrollment through 2031. Under this scenario, the total share of international students in Nova Scotia’s university system would approach 30% (Chart 6 in PDF).