N.S. university students struggling ‘year-round’ with living costs – Halifax | Globalnews.ca

N.S. university students struggling ‘year-round’ with living costs – Halifax | Globalnews.ca

N.S. university students struggling ‘year-round’ with living costs – Halifax | Globalnews.ca

Although summer is in full swing, many post-secondary students in Halifax already have their attention on the fall, as the city’s one per cent vacancy rate has some students struggling to access secure housing options.

G. Saleski, executive director of Students Nova Scotia, a non-profit advocacy group, said concerns are “year-round” for students when it comes to balancing schoolwork and budgets.

“Here in Nova Scotia, students are paying grocery costs that are the highest among students across the entire country,” they said, adding that about 50 per cent of the province’s students have to occasionally limit their grocery bill to afford housing.

Although it depends on the region, Saleski said many students begin searching for housing about six months before their course start date.

“The difficult part now is that even though students are searching earlier, there’s still less affordable and accessible options,” they explained, noting that housing remains one of the biggest barriers between someone obtaining a college or university degree in Nova Scotia.

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“The reality is students are choosing other provinces to study in when they know the cost of housing is going to impact their ability to obtain their degree.”

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia has highest tuition rates in country'

Nova Scotia has highest tuition rates in country

In addition to a clustered rental market, tuition costs are rising at a faster pace than anywhere else in the country.

In a report from August 2023, Students Nova Scotia found the average tuition for domestic undergrads in Canada has increased three per cent over the last six years to $6,834.

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In Nova Scotia, however, it has seen a 20 per cent jump to $9,328 from $7,718 over the same time period.

That’s 36.5 per cent above the national average.

Saleski said that about nine per cent of Nova Scotia’s student population is currently unhoused, with about 17 per cent living in overcrowded housing.

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“Even the ones that can find housing, a lot of them are living in places that don’t have enough bedrooms to accommodate them,” she said.

Neo Ragsac said he and his friend endured a stressful housing search upon beginning classes at Dalhousie University.

Skye Bryden-Blom

Neo Ragsac, a student at Dalhousie University, said he and his friend were initially accepted into residence upon enrolment at the school during the pandemic — but the arrangement fell through.

“It was July and we had until September to find a place. We were scouring the internet as much as we could. We were going through websites like Kijiji,” he said during an interview with Global News on Friday.

Although Ragsac admits the apartment hunt was stressful, he eventually located a living space in closing proximity to campus.

He said his living situation is secure for now, but he’s worried he’ll be immersed into a similarly gruelling process when he re-enters the rental market next year.

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When asked about what advice he’d offer to other students entering the rental space, he said it’s best not to stress too much and remain positive.

“Back then, I would worry a lot about ‘Oh no, what am I going to do,’ but fortunately I had friends and family to help me with that. It’s nice to have people with you to help you plan,” he said.

Ragsac said he maintains an optimistic outlook, adding that his perspective is “as long as you have a bed, it’s all good.”

“Just one step at a time, I guess,” he said.

Housing availability on campus

Several post-secondary institutions based in the Halifax area responded to Global News’ request for comment regarding current residency vacancy rates on university campuses.

In a statement, Dalhousie University said the school has added an additional 200 beds for a total of more than 2,500 beds on Halifax campuses ahead of the upcoming school year.

“Dalhousie has vacancy and continues to accept residence applications for September in both Halifax and Truro,” read a statement from a university spokesperson.

In addition, the school also mentioned it has an “ambitious 10-year housing plan” to build hundreds of additional beds on campus.

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“We have received numerous expressions of interest to partner with us in this work, and we anticipate being underway on our first site in the coming months,” the university said.

As for nearby Saint Mary’s University, a statement from the school said that 1,000 of its 6,500 students currently live on campus.

“We are running a waitlist for our on-campus residences at present. We have been working through it and have already been able to upgrade a large number of people who were waitlisted, they know now they will have a space on campus for the Fall,” said Margaret Murphy, of Saint Mary’s University, in an emailed statement.

“As has been the case the last two years, even with a waitlist, we expect to offer students spaces in almost all cases.”

As for the University of King’s College, a spokesperson confirmed there is “likely to be a waitlist” at the institution this fall.

The university said it offers a “first-year guarantee” that ensures first-year students are reserved a place to live on campus, if requested, but also offer supports for students seeking off-campus housing.

“Our students searching independently are aided by a staff member through contacting the King’s off-campus housing webpage,” said a university spokesperson.

— with files from Skye Bryden-Blom

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