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Universities across Canada are freezing tuition, offering discounts while our schools are doing the opposite

By Chris Muise

It isn’t cheap to earn a degree at Nova Scotia’s universities and colleges. To be fair, post-secondary education is usually an expensive prospect no matter where you study. However, for those travelling across the world to study here in Nova Scotia, that cost is even higher.

International students studying at Canadian universities don’t pay the same tuition their local peers do; they pay much more. Canadian universities often charge an additional International Tuition Fee on top of whatever the course tuition and other university fees may be.

Statistics Canada Study
According to Statistics Canada, in the 2021/22 academic year, the average cost of tuition for an undergraduate degree for a Canadian resident was $9,028; for an international student in the same academic year, the cost more than doubled to $20,397.

The same is true across much of Canada. In fact, that same StatsCan study found the average undergrad tuition for 2021/22 for Canadian students across the nation was just $6,693, but a whopping $33,623 for international students.

Those are already pretty steep differences, and if anything, the rate of increase for international students has grown quickly in recent years, while the average Canadian tuition hasn’t moved much. Given that, and the global upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic leaving many across the world to second-guess the value of travelling abroad, it’s no surprise some schools across Canada are working on slowing that rate of increase down for international students, to incentivize them to keep coming here.

Other Universities Offering Incentives
As reported recently by Study International, Laurentian University in Ontario announced a tuition freeze for international students, to make themselves more of a draw in the competitive Ontario post-secondary market and encourage more students to study there.

“We feel that at this time, we don’t want to increase international fees to sort of help engage international students to come to campus, to come to Laurentian,” Laurentian’s vice-president of finance Michel Piché was quoted as saying during a Board of Governor’s meeting. The school has faced some financial troubles recently, and they’re betting on international enrolment to keep them afloat.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Study International also reports that Brock University is offering local tuition rates for the first year of study to international students; Mount Allison University in New Brunswick has an even sweeter deal, offering the first two years of tuition at domestic rates to international students who graduate from University of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia high schools.

The entire province of Quebec is set to offer local tuition rates to Francophone international students willing to study outside of the Greater Montreal area.

Is Nova Scotia Falling Behind?
Are Nova Scotia universities offering anything in the way of tuition freezes or local rates? The short answer appears to be, no. My East Coast Experience couldn’t find evidence of any tuition incentives at Nova Scotia universities currently on offer. In fact, at Dalhousie, international tuition is set to increase.

“Full-time international tuition will also increase in 2022-23 by an additional $1,473 above the three per cent general increase,” reads a Dalhousie press release. “This is the fourth and final year for this additional increase, which was part of a multi-year international fee plan approved by the Board in 2019.”

The same press release does hint new international student tuition models are on the horizon, while also boasting their “international tuition [is] currently sitting significantly lower than many comparable universities nationally,” but that may be of little comfort to anyone looking at paying for their freshman year today.

Student Housing Part of the Puzzle
An even bigger existential crisis for students in Nova Scotia, international or not, is the current housing crisis. Universities and colleges will need to be part of the solution there as well, and indeed, NSCC has plans to build on-campus student housing at their Akerley, Ivany, and Pictou campuses to reduce the burden. Finding housing is yet another area where it’s just that much harder for international students.

International students contribute tens of billions of dollars to the Canadian economy, and according to a 2019 report by Nova Scotia’s department of Labour and Advanced Education to the Association of Nova Scotia University Teachers (ANSUT), $500 million of that take was added to Atlantic Canada’s GDP.

Chris Muise

Chris Muise is a Halifax-based freelance writer/editor, and long-time contributor for My Halifax Experience and My East Coast Experience.

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