Province increases funding to universities by 1% per year

The province is promising the 10 universities in Nova Scotia a one per cent per year increase in base operating funding over the next five years.

In return, the universities are agreeing to cap tuition increases for Nova Scotians who study in the province at three per cent a year over the same period.

Bill Lahey, the president of University of King's College and chair of the group that represents the institutions, told reporters Friday that it is unlikely that any university would hike tuition by less than the maximum allowed.

The cap only applies to students who are from Nova Scotia and does not apply to students who are enrolled in medicine, dentistry, law or any graduate studies.

Those were similar restrictions in the last agreement reached between the two parties in 2015.

More focus on research, innovation

Labi Kousoulis, the minister of labour and advanced education, told reporters the agreement addresses a number of issues left out of the original deal, including a focus on research and innovation.

He said it would also give students a greater voice in university decision-making. 

He brushed aside a suggestion the coming tuition increases might make a university education unaffordable for some Nova Scotians.

"You can talk about the cost but what we look at is the value," he said. "Our universities are top ranked across the country. The universities don't have challenges attracting people to come to their institutions."

He said at this point he is more concerned with the "affordability of rent" for students, particularly in the Halifax area.

The largest students group in the province is happy with the deal.

Elizabeth McMillan/CBC

Clancy McDaniel, executive director of Students Nova Scotia, pointed to a new provision that gives students a voice when it comes to fees other than tuition.

"What's really exciting about this new [memorandum of understanding] is that mandated student consultation will have to occur on every campus in regards to ancillary and auxiliary fees, which often make up the largest bulk of what students are paying for on a year-to-year basis," said McDaniel.

For the 2019-20 fiscal year Nova Scotia, universities will receive a total of $427.7 million, a $2.5-million increase over the $425.2 million they received in 2018-19.

Along with the one per cent increase, universities are getting roughly one per cent more in targeted funding for innovation, mental health and sexual violence prevention programs.