Halifax Media Co-op

News from Nova Scotia's Grassroots

More independent news:
Do you want free independent news delivered weekly? sign up now
Can you support independent journalists with $5? donate today!
Paid for by Halifax Media Co-op members. Join them today and support cooperative journalism.

Tapping the potential of international students

Jonathan Williams of Students NS thinks Nova Scotia should make it easier for international students to stay

by Jon Grant

Jonathan Williams of Students Nova Scotia believes Nova Scotia should be more welcoming to its international students
Jonathan Williams of Students Nova Scotia believes Nova Scotia should be more welcoming to its international students

International students in Nova Scotia are charged tuition rates approximately 2.5 times higher than domestic students. This is often justified because international student's families do not pay taxes in Canada.

Jonathan Williams does not agree.

"There [are] reasonable grounds for the public to subsidize international students because we derive so many benefits in Nova Scotia from those students coming here" says Williams.

Williams is the Executive Director of the research and advocacy organization Students NS. He recently wrote a report outlining a number of policy recommendations for the provincial government, Nova Scotia universities, and students unions.

The report, International Students and the Future of Nova Scotia Universities, highlights the importance of retaining international students to maintain current enrolment rates in Nova Scotia universities and to boost the provincial economy over the long term.

In writing the report Williams consulted approximately one hundred international students in Nova Scotia to provide feedback and identify issues specific to international students.

One of the major issues addressed in the report is the difference between fees charged to Canadian students and international students.

To make matters worse there is no guarantee that the extra money that universities collect is used to further internationals students education. In fact, evidence suggests that many international students do not possess proficiency in the English language required for job placement upon graduation.

Under current guidelines international students take an English proficiency test prior to studying in Nova Scotia, however, this does little to help those wishing to immigrate upon graduation as the proficiency test is no longer valid at the end of their study period.

Williams wishes to see a proficiency test at the end of students' study period that could carry over to immigration holding the universities responsible for ensuring their students have adequate language scores to ease the immigration process.

"This would create a situation where the university shares a responsibility for the proficiency of their students" says Williams also noting that "it isn't acceptable by any objective measure that someone is able to graduate from a Canadian university, with a Canadian degree, but not have the language competency required to succeed in our labour market."

Nova Scotia is a province in decline with an aging domestic population and negative population growth in recent years. In order to maintain or increase population growth many think Nova Scotia has to increase immigration.

By providing incentives for international students to remain in Nova Scotia and launch careers in the province upon graduation the provincial government would be able to increase the immigration of highly educated individuals which could potentially contribute to economic prosperity in the future.

"We don't have the domestic enrolment required to maintain the size of our university system, we have to bring in international students, so that's a value in maintaining a university system that's viable at the scale that we currently have" says Williams.

A decline in eligible university applicants inevitably creates restrictions on services, courses offered, and jobs within Nova Scotia universities. Dwindling enrolment rates also have the potential to lead to the closure of universities that can't maintain services currently available if they were to have a decrease in enrolment.

Another issue addressed in the report is the fact that international students are not eligible for MSI coverage until their second year of study. Students in their second year of study who leave the province for one month or more are also not eligible for coverage.

"An international student who goes home for the summer, maybe they'll reconnect with home and feel better" says Williams.

By changing regulations surrounding health coverage the provincial government could drastically cut the costs associated with private health insurance which many international students are currently forced to pay.

"International students who return [home] in the summer and then come back here ...each summer... we're making connections to where ever they're going. Every time they go home they're an ambassador for Nova Scotia" explains Williams.

By travelling back and forth between Nova Scotia and their home country students carry with them a wealth of cultural diversity which is crucial to creating and sustaining a vibrant multicultural society.

Increasing the amount of international students studying in Nova Scotia also provides domestic students with further insight into different cultures which is becoming increasingly important in preparing them for work placement in a global society.

Critics of increasing immigration often claim that international students create increased job competition with domestic students.

While this may have some merit the long term benefits far outweigh short term competition for jobs.

"We need to be a place where young people go to find opportunities and not a place where young people leave to find opportunities. We don't have enough young people so having more international students stay is going to help to address that" says Williams.

“There should be opportunities here for every young person that wants to come because otherwise we are committed to being a province in decline."

Paid for by Media Co-op members.
Join them today!
823 words


Report recommends high tuition fees for international students

The article opens by talking about the issue of tuition fees, but doesn't address that this report suggests maintaining differential fees (and high ones at that!). 

On page iii, the report says: "The Province of Nova Scotia should cap international student tuition at the sum of canadian students’ pre-bursary tuition plus the per-student university operating grant."

Such a recommendation, based on the numbers provided for in this report would leave international students paying somewhere in the area of $13,750, which would mean increasing or maintaining high tuition fees for international students. For example, this would be a $5,500 increase for students at Université Ste.-Anne, a $2,000 increase for students at MSVU, and a $1500 increase for students at St. FX. All told, for Arts and Science students, this would be an increase for students at all schools except Acadia, Dal and King's. 
But, this would be more extreme in professional programs such as law, medicine and dentistry. Post-secondary education is funded through a weighted system. This means that a student in a more expensive program such as fine arts, engineering, law, dentistry, medicine, nursing, etc. or is a graduate student is funded at a higher rate than a undergraduate arts and science student. These programs have a higher fee, as well. So under this plan, these students would see even more significant increases in what are already some of the most expensive programs. 
I think that the HMC is one of the only progressive media sources in Halifax, and I don't think it should lend credence to regressive arguments to privatize public services like post-secondary education and further burden international students with even higher tuition fees. 

The site for the Halifax local of The Media Co-op has been archived and will no longer be updated. Please visit the main Media Co-op website to learn more about the organization.