The 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.