Province fixing loan gap after Dalhousie nursing students struggled to pay rent

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The province is boosting loans for nursing students at Dalhousie University in Halifax. (Carolyn Ray/CBC - image credit)
The province is boosting loans for nursing students at Dalhousie University in Halifax. (Carolyn Ray/CBC - image credit)

Nova Scotia is boosting loans for nursing students at Dalhousie University after CBC News revealed the loans were too small to adequately secure food and housing.

Students in the program discovered this fall that their loans were at least $2,000 less than other programs because their studies are intensive.

The issue only applied to nursing students at Dalhousie, who study for three months on and then have one month off.

That meant the loans were being calculated that they were only in class for 28 weeks in a conventional fall and winter semester, when other students were studying for 34.

The nursing students struggled to find jobs that could work with the demanding hours of their program to compensate for the difference.

Carolyn Ray/CBC
Carolyn Ray/CBC

Lane Williams, one of the students affected by the shortfall, was overjoyed with the announcement. He's been working two part-time jobs in order to pay his bills. At times, that meant 18-hour days.

"This is excellent news!" he told CBC in an email. "Such financial relief will alleviate some of the pressure we face."

He said now he'll have more time to focus on his education and future career.

Williams thanked the provincial government for acting quickly after the students spoke out, as well as "all my fellow nursing students who have been tirelessly advocating for change!"

The issue was brought forward by the Dalhousie University Nursing Society, which told CBC News that a number of students in the nursing program have been grappling with financial stresses through the fall.

"The ability to have student loans assessed for the correct number of weeks will help ease our stress around tuition, food and rent," Anika Daclan, the nursing society's co-president, said in Friday's announcement from the province. "Moreover, it will allow for us to concentrate on finishing our studies and giving back to our community through service."

Carolyn Ray/CBC
Carolyn Ray/CBC

The province says the 250 students will be reassessed immediately, and some will receive up to $3,300 more in the coming weeks.

"Nurses are a critical part of our health-care system," Brian Wong, minister of advanced education, said in a statement. "I am pleased our staff could act quickly to close this funding gap."

This is the latest in a series of announcements from the provincial government aimed at filling the long list of health-care vacancies in Nova Scotia.

Last week, the premier guaranteed a job to every nursing student who graduates in Nova Scotia. The province also announced it was hiring recruiters specifically to find staff for long-term care homes.

"I want our nursing students to know we are listening to their concerns," said Premier Tim Houston in a statement. "We're addressing barriers to completing their studies and giving them the support they need to build a guaranteed and successful career right here at home."

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