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Open letter calling for reduced student tuition and increased funding for post-secondary institutions

May 31, 2021 

To: Premier Iain Rankin, Minister Lena Diab 

We write on behalf of an alliance of 20 higher-education unions, non-unionized workers, and  student associations in Nova Scotia, formed at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Together, we  represent over 20,000 college and university employees across the province, both academics and staff,  as well as students—all essential to the work of higher education in the province. 

We are dismayed that Nova Scotia universities are raising tuition fees for the second time during  the pandemic. The Dalhousie University Board of Governors voted on April 20 to increase tuition fees by  3% for domestic students, plus an additional $1,473 for international students. Likewise, Mount Saint  Vincent University approved a 3% tuition hike for their students on April 30. Of all the post-secondary  institutions in Nova Scotia, only the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design chose to freeze tuition for the  2020-2021 year, but they too chose to increase tuition for the upcoming year — a 1% increase for  domestic students and a 2.5% increase for international students. Other universities have not yet voted  on proposed fee increases for the upcoming academic year. 

In January 2021, the provincial government announced a $25 million investment to help Nova  Scotia universities manage the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this financial relief,  universities continue to raise tuition fees for students. 

Students have faced significant financial insecurity and other hardships over the past year. For  many, the switch to online learning has negatively affected their mental health. In addition, the  reduction in jobs and internships during the pandemic has meant a substantial loss of income to  students. Raising tuition fees even higher — when domestic students in Nova Scotia are already paying  the highest fees in the country and international students’ fees are several times higher — will only  exacerbate students’ struggles. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has called attention to the urgent need to strengthen public services  and infrastructure to support public health now and effective social and economic recovery post pandemic. Universities and colleges play important roles in both the near and long term.  

In Nova Scotia, institutions of higher education are significant regional employers. They also  bring thousands of students into the province. We welcome the extension of emergency support  measures for students contained in the recent federal budget. These measures acknowledge the  imperative of supporting the continuation of students’ academic pursuits. 

We urgently call on Premier Iain Rankin and Labour and Advanced Education Minister Lena Diab  to support the post-secondary education sector through this crisis. Your action is necessary to protect  our institutions, our students, and our work for Nova Scotia. 

In particular, we request the following measures: 

1.  Reduce student tuition and increase student bursaries. High tuition is already a barrier  for many; particularly during the pandemic, income from part-time and summer jobs  and federal income supports are often insufficient to cover tuition fees. Previous  emergency support for post-secondary institutions has not translated into tuition relief for students, which is why an immediate tuition freeze for all students in Nova Scotia  and emergency financial support provided directly to students is necessary. 

2.  Increase funding to post-secondary institutions. Universities and colleges must be given  sufficient support to manage the pandemic without cuts to or constraints on programs  and services because of interim deficits related to the impact of the pandemic. 

Nova Scotia’s post-secondary sector is crucial to supporting public health and the economy in the near  and long term, and to helping students prepare for a rapidly changing future. Education remains the  engine of innovation and ingenuity fueling our province’s growth and success. It is vital that  governments provide the necessary supports to maintain this sector. 

Our unions stand ready to work together with our administrations and the province on finding solutions  to support higher education and our post-secondary students in Nova Scotia. 

Signed, 

Nova Scotia’s Post-Secondary Education Students, Staff and Faculty Alliance (SSFA)


Minister of Labour and Advanced Education Lena Metlege Diab (seated left) and Premier Iain Rankin speak with Nova Scotia university presidents (clockwide on screen from upper left) Peter Ricketts (Acadia), Deep Saini (Dalhousie), Andy Hakin (StFX) and Robert Summerby-Murray (SMU).

See also: Dalhousie Board of Governors increases tuition for students once again, despite pandemic

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