Break for students needs some focus

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It’s encouraging to know that many Nova Scotians sympathize the pinch university students face. But it’s another thing to translate that sentiment into improvements that would reduce barriers preventing some from pursuing higher education.

High tuition costs in this province are one of many factors. But that was one focus of a recent poll from the Nova Scotia Post-Secondary Education Coalition.

The results, as reported in an article this week from Metro Halifax, revealed that 71 per cent of people earning between $40,000 and $70,000 would be willing to pay higher taxes with the assurance the extra would go toward making university and college more affordable.

It’s easy to see how that could be a hot topic. University students in Nova Scotia face high tuitions – nearly three times the fees in a couple of provinces. Quebec and Manitoba are two where the rates are especially lower. Such a difference, ultimately, is possible courtesy of the taxpayers.

On this topic, some might remember musings from former Quebec premier Jacques Parizeau suggesting free tuition in that province. Outlandish as that might sound, he said it would be significantly less than the kind of money provincial governments give to corporations.

Free – or much lower – tuition would help any student. We might expect a corresponding raising of admission standards to encourage more serious-minded students. Some might also call for greater emphasis on disciplines that will be in demand in the future workforce.

Supposing people could be assured that an increase in the tax they pay would directly help post-secondary students through a tuition decrease, obviously it would mean some relief. But consider housing and living expenses – tuition is one part of a much bigger picture.

We certainly want an educated work force, and fair educational opportunities for youth. But the best bang for our buck is to get financial help to those students in the greatest need and who show promise.

Organizations: Nova Scotia Post-Secondary Education Coalition, Metro Halifax

Geographic location: Quebec, Nova Scotia, Manitoba

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