The Canadian Federation of Students-Nova Scotia (CFS-NS) is calling the tuition fees students in the province are facing in the 2016-2017 academic year a “catastrophe for post-secondary education.”
In a release sent out Wednesday, the federation says Statistics Canada numbers show average undergraduate tuition in the province sitting at $7,218 — significantly higher than the national average of $6,373.
“These fee hikes are slamming shut the doors of higher education for a generation of learners,” said federation chairperson Charlotte Kiddell.
In the 2015 budget, the Liberal government announced it would temporarily lift the three per cent tuition increase cap, allowing universities in the province to increase prices by any amount they saw fit.
CFS-NS says that with an increase of 5.6 per cent, Nova Scotia tuition fees have gone up more than anywhere else in the country — making it the second-most expensive province in the country to study.
The average tuition increase for the rest of the country this year is 2.8 per cent, CFS-NS says.
In an emailed statement, NDP Leader Gary Burrill said the Liberals are making attending post-secondary institutions more difficult for students who are already graduating with increasing levels of student debt.
“How can we expect young people to make a go of it, when they are graduating with an average of $39,000 in student debt?” Burrill said.
“In the face of this crisis, Stephen McNeil and his government are only making the situation worse by allowing tuition fees to increase more than anywhere else in the country.”
The NDP says that if elected, they would invest in providing affordable post-secondary education in Nova Scotia, beginning with eliminating tuition at the Nova Scotia Community College.
In an emailed statement from the Department of Labour and Advanced Education, spokesperson Lisa Jarrett told Global News the government has “increased funding to universities every year since coming to office.”
“We are also taking steps to protect the affordability of post-secondary education for Nova Scotian students,” the statement reads.
“To lower the cost of university for all Nova Scotian students, we provide an annual bursary to all Nova Scotian students who study in the province.”
Jarrett added eligible students who do have student loans in Nova Scotia don’t have pay interest on the provincial portion of their loan.