Nova Scotia’s universities want more federal cash. The province is a net importer of university students—students from the rest of the country who go there to attend schools outnumber Nova Scotians who leave to study elsewhere. The student populations at two Nova Scotia universities, St. Francis Xavier and Acadia, are made up of 40 per cent or more out-of-province students, and more than half of the student body at Dalhousie University comes from outside Nova Scotia. “The amount of funding that the province of Nova Scotia receives from the feds is less than what we require to adequately fund the students that are here,” says Ken Burt, vice-president of finance at Halifax’s Dalhousie.
Canadian universities receive federal transfer funding on a per capita basis, which doesn’t factor in how many students from other provinces are studying there. Instead, those students are counted in their own province’s census, so federal money that should account for them actually goes to their home province. For years, academics and politicians from Nova Scotia have been calling for a per-student model of funding instead, but it’s a difficult fight.
For a brief moment last week, it appeared the little guys had found an ally: speaking at Dalhousie, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said he’d support the per-student model—but then he waffled and switched opinions completely by the end of the week: “I still like the idea of creating this market so we reward success,” he told reporters in Halifax; confusingly, he also opined, “I just don’t want to punish failure so that we have a lot of other institutions drying up.” Later in the week, at the University of Manitoba, he said the Liberals wouldn’t in fact support a per-student funding model.
Burt doesn’t think change will come for a long time. “Anything that would reduce the amount of money available to schools in Ontario wouldn’t be a good thing for schools in Ontario, or probably the population of Ontario,” he says. “We’re out-weighted and outvoted.”