University the Best Road to the Future?

Nova Scotia’s got some issues around university enrolments. In a province with a million people, there are 11 degree granting institutions who are run very independently within a small province. Some of them also offer the same degrees, so I can see why we have problems. If we offer, as an example, arts and science degrees at most every one of them, we are stretching resources across the province. It might make more sense to offer those degrees at just one or two locations, so that you can focus the faculty and learning and centralize some resources. I’ve also heard that Canadian student enrolments are decreasing (no wonder given the costs and abysmal support from student loans and grants), so the reaction seems to be to encourage more international students, because they will pay the high tuition. Dalhousie alone has seen an increase from about 1200 to 1700 international students this year, and St. Mary's has made similar efforts. What does that do for Canadian students who need to compete in local and international marketplaces?

Dalhousie’s tuition freeze the past few years means that undergraduate Canadian students there now pay the third highest tuition in the country, and graduate students there are paying the highest. It means my son’s tuition for the fourth year of his undergraduate degree is about $6500 this year.

Somewhere I remember reading that as Canadians, we only pay about half of the costs of that education. The government subsidizes the rest through funding to the universities. Sometimes I wish that I had grown up somewhere else, where university is paid for in full. I think it would be worth it, even if it meant my taxes were higher, because this tuition bill is out of this world. When I compare how international students (and I don’t belittle them the education, I’m just not happy with what they get that is also tax payer funded--and they do get stuff) are treated, I fund the preferential treatment frustrating.

For example, in Nova Scotia, international students who qualify receive free provincial health care after their first year. That puts them on equal footing with my son, who also receives free provincial health care. There are associations here and abroad that will pay for 100% of tuition, books, study aids (like a computer) and living expenses for international students. My son is an honour student, and only receives a small scholarship. We have to budget and scrimp to pay for books, clothing, tuition (with help from student loans), and still accrue debt. The average Canadia student finishes a 4-year undergraduate degree with about $40,000 in debt. Something is not right about this when we live in an apparently weathy country.

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