Middle-income earners willing to pay more tax to lower tuition, poll suggests

Published on February 5, 2014

HALIFAX - More middle-income Nova Scotians are concerned with rising tuition costs than ever before, according to a new poll from the Nova Scotia Post-Secondary Education Coalition.

The results show nearly 71 per cent of people who make between $40,000 and $70,000 a year would pay higher taxes if they knew it would go towards making local universities or colleges more affordable.

“It’s no longer an issue of how we ensure that low-income Nova Scotians can attend university,” said David Etherington of the Canadian Federation of Students-Nova Scotia on Tuesday.

Etherington said this is the first year the poll has shown middle-income residents as the most supportive of a tax hike, but that’s not surprising.

He said a recent report shows tuition rising above the $6,000 mark will “start pushing middle-income students out of university.”

The poll also shows 29 per cent of Nova Scotians say they’ve had someone in their family choose not to attend college or university in the last year because they couldn’t shoulder the debt.

More Nova Scotians were concerned about post-secondary education and health care at 65 per cent, than taxation (64 per cent) or crime (39 per cent).

The coalition is hoping these numbers prove to the new Liberal government that the majority of Nova Scotians support post-secondary education, and plan to meet with Advanced Education Minister Kelly Regan about a 15 per cent tuition decrease.

Dr. Chris Ferns, president of the Association of Nova Scotia University Teachers, said the opportunities of a free or very low-cost education compared with what students encounter nowadays is “staggering.”

“It’s one of the things my generation should be most ashamed of, that we had access to affordable education and we’re not providing it for our children,” Ferns said.

The coalition says the poll took place from Dec. 9 to 16 and has a margin of error of plus or minus three per cent, 19 times out of 20.