To keep grads in Nova Scotia, we have to first attract students

studentsThe Halifax Partnership, the community economic development organization set up to — ta-da! — “bring private and public sector stakeholders together to create prosperity,” says Halifax needs to “focus on creating opportunities for recent graduates, both domestic and international, to enter the local labour force.”

That’s the key take-away — perhaps penetrating glimpse into the obvious — in this year’s “Halifax Index 2015,” the Partnership’s annual “economic gut check with insights for action.”

The problem, it seems to me, is not identifying this problem, but in solving the problem before it — figuring out how to lure more university students to enrol and/or stay here.

That becomes clear when you read the news around the news from last week’s Partnership report.

Let’s start with university tuition hikes.

The day the Partnership’s report was released, Dalhousie’s Student Union predicted some of its students will face $1,000 increases next year.

This spring, the McNeil government announced it was temporarily lifting a three per cent cap on tuition fee increases universities can charge students. Since Nova Scotia universities — beset by years of under-funding by cash-strapped provincial governments — already charge among the highest tuitions in  the country, that news could hardly be considered a billboard advertising for more students.

But it gets worse. While the cap will go back on the tuition piggy bank for Nova Scotia students next year, universities will be free to charge out-of-province and international students — both key to overcoming our declining birth rate — whatever the market will bear.

And there is no limit on how much universities can charge for grad programs, where tuition has increased 30 per cent over the past four years.

High tuition costs — along with the reality our obstetricians and gynaecologists are among the lowest paid in the country — may explain yet another news story published the day after the release of Halifax Index 2015. It noted that not one of the six OB-GYNs completing their training in Halifax this year will stick around to open a practice here.

None of that is to argue against the Halifax Partnership’s prescription — simply to make the point that we seem to making it harder, not easier to create those grads we so desperately need.

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  1. A system where a families means determines wether a child will have the opportunity to access university or other post secondary education is a system that does not ensure our best and brightest minds will succeed to their fullest potential! Our system as well in many ways is absent of any meaningful guidance tools such as purposeful and ongoing aptitude testing, providing students with the necessary information for making good career choices. A child has to know as well pre high school that if they work hard in school and do their part up to and including high school that they will have the opportunity to go to university regardless of their families economic means, therefore all post secondary and university education should be fully paid for for any student that does their part and qualifies to go further! Education should not be for only the wealthy and those of influence as it is fast becoming, it should be for our brightest minds, money does not determined intelligence, nor will it create the next Einstein!

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  2. When the report says ““focus on creating opportunities for recent graduates, both domestic and international, to enter the local labour force” it’s possible they have no intention on creating new (or even maintaining) Nova Scotian students. They seem to be advocating for grads from elsewhere to migrate here after getting their education at institutions from away. You know, reaping the benefits of full-time, educated workers that buy condos and pay income tax without bearing the costs of educating them.

    Given the economic value our numerous colleges and universities represent to the NS economy, it’s a shame that they would overlook increasing enrollment and retaining our own graduates in their scheme.

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