What is a “manageable level of debt” for students to carry?
What financial role should parents be expected to play in their children’s post-secondary education (if any)?
Is the student funding system in Nova Scotia flawed or fundamentally broken?
These were just a handful of big questions that came out of the public consultation held at Dalhousie on Tuesday evening as part of the Province of Nova Scotia’s student assistance review. As three representatives from the Department of Education listened and took notes, the more than 35 attendees shared their thoughts, opinions and experiences with the Nova Scotia Student Assistance Program.
The participants spanned a wide range of backgrounds and personal experiences, from a mother whose daughter had been denied a loan, to a student who hasn’t bought a single book for his classes this term because his loan hasn’t come through, and a young woman denied social assistance because she chose to pursue her education.
“It just doesn’t add up for most people,” said one contributor, the common sentiment echoed in the stories shared throughout the evening.
The student aid review stems from the province’s throne speech promise in 2006 to undertake a comprehensive review of student and graduate support programs. The comments from this particular consultation session, along with those gathered from consultations around the province and online, will be presented in a report to Education Minister Karen Casey in early January.
“I was really pleased by the turnout,” says DSU President Mike Tipping, who is also chair of the Alliance of Nova Scotia Student Associations. “We heard heartbreaking stories from students struggling to get by and graduate. The big things that came out of the session were that we need a needs-based grants program in this province, and that student financial aid needs to be viewed in the larger context of the future of Nova Scotia.”
He adds that Nova Scotia is one of only three provinces in Canada without a provincially-funded needs-based grants program.
HRM residents who would like to participate in one of the public consultations will have one more opportunity next Wednesday, Dec. 5 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the boardroom of the NSCC Waterfront Campus in Dartmouth. If you are unable to attend but still wish to contribute to the consultation process, the province is welcoming formal submissions or personal comments at its website. The deadline for submissions is December 21.
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