As tuition soars in their home province, more Nova Scotia students are flocking to Newfoundland
ST. JOHN’S (CUP) — Newfoundland may have a problem with the out-migration of skilled workers to Alberta, but it also boasts a steady influx of energetic young Nova Scotians in the form of students seeking cheap tuition fees.
In the last five years, the number Nova Scotian students at Memorial University of Newfoundland has more than tripled. In fact, about half of Memorial’s out-of-province students hail from the neighbouring province.
Over a thousand Nova Scotians walk the halls of Memorial this year.
‘My sister went to med school at MUN and I just followed her here. Low tuition prices was a big part of it,’ said Heather McDermott from Cole Harbour, NS.
McDermott is also the president of the university’s new-formed MUN Nova Scotia Society.
‘We felt that it was really important to give them a place where they could have people with similar backgrounds,’ McDermott said.
The Society tends to focus on social networking events such as mixers, pub crawls, and fundraisers for charities like the Janeway and the Canadian Foundation for AIDS Research.
According to Statistics Canada, Nova Scotia’s average annual tuition is $5,878, while the national average is $4,524. MUN’s is $2,550?the lowest in the country outside Quebec.
‘It’s close to home and It’s a very similar atmosphere in Newfoundland that you find in Nova Scotia, but a lot of it would have to do with tuition prices, where most of Nova Scotia is increasing without subsidizing,’ McDermott said.
Acadia University in Wolfville, NS, has among the heftiest tuition fees in the country, at $6,152 for Nova Scotia students, not including union dues or additional fees. It’s $6,652 for non-Nova Scotians.
‘To go to Acadia for a year, It’s like the cost of two or three years here in just the tuition,’ said Steph Power, a Halifax native and director of advocacy with the MUN Students’ Union (MUNSU).
‘And I mean, You’re getting the same quality of education. The degree has the same worth, definitely,’ she added.
University enrolment has taken hits across the Atlantic provinces this year, especially in Nova Scotia. Acadia University was hit the hardest, registering a 10.1 per cent drop in enrolment. Memorial, however, shirked the trend, only dropping 0.9 per cent, as it boosted its national and international recruitment efforts.
‘Newfoundland and Labrador is a vibrant and exciting place to live and study, and is still relatively close to home for students coming from Atlantic Canada,’ said Sheila Devine, the director of MUN’s Office of Student Recruitment.
Devine said that Memorial recruits heavily in Nova Scotia through career fairs, high-school visits, and marketing campaigns like the Rant Like Rick contest, which drew two winners from Nova Scotia last year.
When Power decided to go to university to study kinesiology, she said the choice was between MUN and Dalhousie University in Halifax.
‘At Dal I would be paying the same price to go to school and live with my parents as I would be to go to MUN and live at residence,’ she said.
And it turns out Newfoundland was a good fit.
‘It’s such a learning opportunity to take yourself out of where You’re comfortable and your community, and find a new community and sense of belonging somewhere else,’ said Power.
Despite her love for St. John’s, though, Nova Scotia is still home.
‘I love Halifax. I love being home. I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I’d definitely like to live there again.’
But Nova Scotians won’t go unrepresented in the students’ union when Power steps down as the vice-president internal of the union.
Cameron Campbell is MUNSU’s incoming director of external affairs and chair of the Nova Scotia Society. He hails from Hammonds Plains, a suburb of Halifax?and he’s got no plans to go back.
‘Now I don’t even like it in Halifax?I like it more here,? he said. ?I just like the city more. The people are similar but a bit more friendly I find. It’s still got that East Coast feel,’ he said.
‘I find [Newfoundland] a lot like Nova Scotia. It’s very, very comparable, only I can go downtown and I don’t have to worry about getting mugged. I have a sister who got mugged twice in the same night [in Halifax] just last semester. I don’t like to have to worry about things like that.’
But low crime rates and safe streets aren’t what drew Campbell to the island in the first place. Just like McDermott and Power, for him, it was all about the money.
‘I come from a big family. I’m the oldest of six children, and I’m also the only child in the family to not have any kind of education savings fund,’ said Campbell. ‘Price was definitely the number one motivator.’
Not to mention, It’s close to home, so flying back and forth is fast and affordable.
For Katherine Quackenbush, a star MUN athlete and Halifax native, the choice was simpler.
‘My main reason for coming to MUN was because of the strong basketball program,’ she said.
Quackenbush, guard on the Sea Hawks women’s basketball team, has been named the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) Most Valuable Player two years in a row, and Defensive Player of the Year twice in her MUN career. She also just nabbed the James Bayer Memorial Scholarship Award?the most prestigious award offered by the AUS.
Quackenbush says her closest friends are her teammates, and most of them are Newfoundlanders. But McDermott, Campbell, and Power are all members of the Nova Scotia Society, and they say the Nova Scotian community at MUN is tight-knit.
‘We all seem to hang out together, which is kind of funny, even though barely any of us knew each other before we came here. There’s just such a strong community of us that we get to know each other through residence, ’cause most of us do end up living in residence,’ said Power.
‘We were sitting around the other day, me and Heather [McDermott] were talking about this, and we were trying to think about our circle of friends, and probably 75 per cent of them are from Nova Scotia,’ said Campbell.
What draws Nova Scotians together? Why is there a Nova Scotia Society, and not, say, an Ontario Society?
‘Maybe because NS is a much smaller province than Ontario and there’s a greater sense of identity being from a smaller province,’ said Quackenbush. ‘Or it could be that some people from NS wanted an excuse to get together and drink Alexander Keith’s.’