News / Halifax

Nova Scotia student advocates release 2018 budget wish list

Immediate healthcare coverage for international students and improved mental health resources are among their suggestions.

Saint Mary's University in Halifax.

Metro File

Saint Mary's University in Halifax.

Student financial aid, more mental health resources and immediate healthcare coverage for international students are among the recommendations students are bringing to the province ahead of the 2018 budget.

StudentsNS represents about 20,000 post secondary students throughout Nova Scotia. On Wednesday the non-profit advocacy group publicly released their recommendations.

“One of the big ones is always going to be the affordability and accessibility of post secondary education in Nova Scotia, and that’s where we came up with our recommendations around student financial aid,” explained StudentsNS executive director Tristan Bray.

Those recommendations include re-investing tuition and education tax credits into upfront grants given to students who need it the most.

“We’ve seen Ontario and New Brunswick do this. With this reinvestment of money, (they’ve) been able to provide free tuition to students from the lowest income backgrounds,” Bray said.

Another recommendation is to introduce loan forgiveness for Nova Scotia Community College students.

“Currently they’re not eligible for the loan forgiveness program. For fairness, NSCC students should be included in this program,” Bray said.

One issue StudentsNS has repeatedly brought forward to the province is providing MSI coverage for international students immediately upon their arrival.

“Our post secondary institutions rely on international students and they bring so much value in terms of culture and experience…When they come to the province they have to remain in the province for 13 consecutive months without leaving for 31 consecutive days in order to be eligible,” Bray explained.

“This doesn’t make a lot of sense given that international students want to return to their families over the summer, so if they study here for a year and want to go back to their families or to go work in their country, all of a sudden their eligibility is reset and they have to wait again.”

Bray said another key issue on the minds of the province’s students is mental health.

“Right now the existing resources on university and college campuses are very, very overburdened. It can be up to a six week wait time for a student to see and chat with a counsellor,” he said.

“Having someone to talk to can make the difference for that student between dropping out that semester or succeeding…We’re advocating and we’d like to see government invest in a suite of online, innovative resources. Investing in mental health at a post secondary level is really a preventative approach.”

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