It’s election time out on the east coast, and with polling day (October 8th) fast approaching, it’s time to see what the various parties have on offer for post-secondary education.
The ruling NDP is proposing… nothing. Nothing at all. Instead of an actual manifesto, they are running on their record (kind of) and making seven “key commitments” for the next term, none of which touch on post-secondary education in anyway. This is a tactic often used by sitting governments, but it’s still disappointing. It’s basically a way of saying “trust us”. In PSE, where the Dexter government’s policy has essentially been, “raise student aid, cut grants to universities, and pray that somehow, beyond all reason, institutions self-implement the O’Neill Report“, it’s not a reassuring method.
(Seriously, why did Dexter ask Tim O’Neill for that report in the first place? O’Neill never made any bones that he thought the situation going forward was dire, or that significant reform was necessary – why ask him to recommend such difficult measures if, as a government, the NDP lacked the will to implement any of them?)
The Liberal platform contains two proposals, both of which are pretty lightweight. One is to remove interest on provincial student loans, even in repayment; apparently, government paying people to borrow is a good idea. The second is to create – and I quote – “graduate scholarships for research and innovation to build research capacity for Nova Scotia”. Well, of course! Who knew building research capacity was that simple?
The Conservative platform is probably the most interesting. For one thing, it suggests requiring institutions to provide prospective students with information about graduate employability. I have no idea what that might mean in practice, but I suspect this meme will be popping up in many manifestos over the next few years.
More importantly, perhaps, the Tories are offering five-year MOUs with both NSCC and the province’s universities. In the case of universities, these MOUs are to be based on – pay attention here – “high quality, affordable post-secondary education, institutional fiscal responsibility, commercialization, and population growth”. In the case of NSCC, it is to be based on, “affordable and accessible post-secondary education, job ready skills training, increased focus on the trades, institutional fiscal responsibility, and population growth”. Interesting distinctions, no?
Here’s the bottom line. No party is making any promises of new money to universities or colleges (the Tories are offering MOUs, but not making cash commitments). The only new money any party is offering is targeted towards students, which is consistent with the recent pattern of “feed the students, starve the schools” that we’ve seen in recent provincial budgets across Canada.
So, no change there, unfortunately.