Tuition Market Adjustment Q & A
December 8, 2015

Why are NSCAD tuition rates changing?

Since 2007, Nova Scotia universities have not been able to make changes to tuition that were not regulated by government. This year, the Nova Scotia Department of Labour and Advanced Education authorized a one-time adjustment by all Nova Scotia universities to implement a tuition market adjustment to help universities achieve financial sustainability.

In making changes to tuition, the Board of Governors wanted to ensure the long-term sustainability to the university, and bring fairness to the system, so students pay for the classes they chose. The changes were designed to impact the lowest possible number of students, and ensure students have the ability to choose how and when they are affected. 

What are the changes being introduced to undergraduate tuition?

One change is to move away from flat-fee tuition. Until now, it meant that tuitions for four classes (12 credits), five classes (15 credits) and an overload of six classes (18 credits) are charged at the 12-credit rate. Essentially the 5th and 6th course each term were free at NSCAD. This will no longer be the case, aligning NSCAD with other universities across the country.

(To clarify, NSCAD students typically earn three credits per class, although studio-intensive classes for senior students may account for six or nine credits.)

The flat fee tuition model results in approximately 600 unbilled courses and lost revenues of roughly $400,000 per year. Even though NSCAD was experiencing financial difficulty, it could not move away from the flat fee tuition model until this year when the Province provided a one-time market adjustment opportunity.

The flat fee tuition model results in NSCAD incurring expenses to run classes for which it does not collect any revenue. This resulted in a shortfall of more than $400,000 in the 2014-15 Academic year, contributing to NSCAD’s financial difficulties. This adjustment will allow NSCAD to expand on its core course offerings.

The move away from flat-fee tuition means students choosing to take five classes (15 credits) or more will be affected. Full-time students taking four classes (12 credits) or three classes (9 credits) or part-time students taking one class (three credits) or two classes (six credits) will not be affected.

To be clear, the increases are not across the board, and will only affect students who chose to take 15 credits or more per semester.

What is a flat fee tuition model?

A flat fee tuition model means full-time students pay the same tuition, whether taking four classes (12 credits), five classes (15 credits) or six classes (18 credits) a semester.
Flat-fee tuition doesn’t reflect the way current students navigate their education. Having a per-credit tuition model allows students flexibility in planning course load. Those students who are taking four classes (12 credits) only pay for four classes.

Moving away from a flat-fee model aligns NSCAD with all other universities in Canada.

Who is affected by this proposal and how?

If the tuition market adjustment was in place for the 2015-2016 school year, it would affect 38 per cent of the current student body.

When it is implemented, students choosing to take five classes (15 credits) or more will be affected. Full-time students taking four classes (12 credits) or three classes (nine credits) or part-time students taking one class (three credits) or two classes (six credits) will not be affected.

What are the changes being introduced to graduate tuition?

Currently, NSCAD charges the same tuition for graduate programs as undergraduate programs, which is unusual in Canada. Starting in September 2016 for new graduate students, graduate tuition will be 30 per cent more than undergraduate tuition, reflecting the greater expense of delivering focused, intensive programs to fewer students at the graduate level.

Graduate students also have more assistanceships, bursary and scholarship opportunities available to them.

The adjustment will bring NSCAD’s graduate tuition in line with the Canadian standard. Graduate students in NSCAD’s Master of Design and Master of Fine Art programs will now pay 30 per cent more than undergraduates, for a total of $8,270 per year.

Will there still be annual cost of living increases?

The tuition market adjustment is independent of annual cost of living increases which are allowed by the Government of Nova Scotia within the cap. These increases will continue to be reviewed on an annual basis and NSCAD’s approach with regards to these increases will be consistent with the other Nova Scotia universities.

Why did the Board of Governors vote on the adjustment via email?

The Board of Governors began discussing the adjustments at its meeting on Thursday, Nov. 26, but were not able to carry through with the vote and the meeting was adjourned.
A vote by email is permissible by NSCAD bylaws. Mindful of the Province’s deadline (Dec. 18) to introduce market adjustments, a vote was called by the Board Chair. Board members voted, with the overwhelming majority voting for the market adjustment.

Was the NSCAD community consulted about the adjustment?

Three consultation sessions were held with administration and students to provide information about the proposed tuition market adjustment throughout the fall. The student representatives also presented to the Board at the meeting on Nov. 26. NSCAD President Dianne Taylor-Gearing met with approximately 60 students at a meeting requested by students on Dec. 3.

What is the cost of attending NSCAD as compared to the other schools of fine art and design in Canada?

Tuition is about thirty per cent of the cost of attending university in any given year for those students who do not live at home. When examining the total cost to attend university one must consider living costs, tuition and fees. Living expenses are greater in cities like Vancouver and Toronto and other schools of fine art and design charge ancillary fees for learning resources, health and wellness, academic equipment and new technology, career services, student union space and more, as well as other miscellaneous fees which are not charged to NSCAD students. NSCAD also has 24-hour studio access, which is not offered by the other art and design universities in Canada.

Further facts regarding tuition:

  • The Nova Scotia Bursary is available for all Nova Scotia residents—amounting to a $1,283 benefit for undergraduate and graduate students taking 12 credits or more;
  • Additional financial support from the Province is available in the form of student loans;
  • The Province introduced a Loan Forgiveness Program for graduates in 2015-2016.

What kind of support does NSCAD offer students?

NSCAD offers a wide range of scholarships, awards and bursaries. More than $312,000 in scholarship and bursary funds were dispersed to NSCAD students this year. Scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit. Bursaries are awarded based on financial need. The Board of Governors is committed to concentrating more of its fundraising for bursaries and scholarships to mitigate the effect of recent the tuition increase.  With the various NSCAD and provincial bursaries, scholarships and awards, less than 40% of NSCAD students pay the posted tuition rates.

Why not stay with the flat fee tuition model?

The flat fee tuition model means that there are classes delivered, or credits earned which are unbilled. These unbilled classes represented $400,000 in lost revenue for the university in 2014-2015. NSCAD is not in a financial position to absorb such losses. Also, this model in not consistent with any other university billing model in Canada, making more difficult for transfer credits, etc.

The flat fee model means that scarce resources are being used with no revenue being contributed. This puts a strain on the university and does not allow it to expand on its core course offerings.  The financial shortfall of this model has represented over $400,000 in the 2014-15 Academic Year.

This model will bring fairness in billing students for what they receive and is consistent with the billing model at other Universities in Canada.

As our student population grows, NSCAD will be better equipped to set the standard for a 21st century university of the visual arts.