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1. In 2012, Nova Scotians received an estimated $291 million in student financial assistance from the federal ($194m) and provincial ($97m) governments.

2. A typical four-year undergraduate student may receive up to $13,260 in federal/provincial assistance, including $2,448 in non-repayable grants. Additional need-based grants are available to students with larger financial barriers.

3. Pre-study education savings programs and post-study educational tax credits provide the largest benefits to high-income Nova Scotians.

4. Student debt levels for Nova Scotia university graduates are currently decreasing. In 2010, the average graduate held $30,200 in debt – which was almost $2,500 lower than in 2005 (in 2010 dollars).

5. Enrolment of Nova Scotians in university has decreased by 17% since 1992, while NSCC enrolment has increased 67%.


In Canada, student financial assistance (SFA) programs are the primary instruments used by government to reduce financial barriers to PSE access. The federal and provincial governments combine to deliver multiple SFA programs at different intervention points in a student’s educational journey.1


The federal government’s Canada Education Savings Program (CESP) is meant to incentivize families to begin saving early for the PSE of their children.2 The CESP has three components:

1. The Basic CES Grant provides a 20% supplement to any Registered Education Savings Plan (RESP) contributions made each year, to a $500 maximum.

2. The Additional CES Grant further supplements the Basic CESG for low-income (LI) and middle-income (MI) families.

LI families (under $43k) receive an additional 20% on the first $500 in annual RESP contributions while MI families (approx. $43-84k) receive an additional 10%.

3. The Canada Learning Bond (CLB) provides a $500 grant to LI families in the first year and $100 in up to 15 subsequent years (for families remaining in the LI category).

In 2012, 39% of eligible Nova Scotians received CES Grants while only 19% of CLB-eligible individuals received these income-targeted benefits. Overall, only 1/3 of all CESP recipients were from LI or MI families, indicating that most of the $14 million in benefits are concentrated in Nova Scotian families with relatively high incomes.

In-Study SFA

Table 1. Federal Student Financial Assistance

(See PDF for Tables and charts) 

Table 2. Provincial Student Financial Assistance

(See PDF for Tables and charts)

The federal and provincial governments both offer student loan and grant programs to provide direct assistance to current students (see Tables 1 and 2). Both programs are “need-based” – they expect financial contributions from