Milking the Student Cash Cow – Halifax Students Boost the Economy
Many Haligonians probably don’t realize there are three universities and two colleges all within their city’s postage stamp perimeter. Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia, is a bustling but somehow still intimate port city, so it can be pretty tough to believe that there’s this multitude of post-secondary opportunity squashed into this beautiful, historic city. And yet, it’s the college town to end all college towns: five very unique schools thrive here, each with a different focus and a very different set of students.
Dalhousie, known for its medical school and Canada’s leading neurosurgical unit, is the leader of the pack with a whopping student enrollment of almost 19,000 students. A close (ish) second is NSCC, with around 11,000 students—this is just one of 13 college campuses across the province offering vocational training.
After that, the schools become smaller and more focused: with 7,500 students, Saint Mary’s University is a tiny but proud school, with fierce sports teams and a strong international business presence. Mount Saint Vincent, the quintessential historic university, has just 2500 (mostly female) students, which means small class sizes and incredibly satisfied students. Rounding out the list is the prestigious NSCAD, an art school that is most definitely not teeming with artsy hippies—the very small school takes on just under 1000 students and works hard to cultivate a very strong artistic presence in the city.
So, what does that mean for you? When you combine the students from all five schools, that’s an impressive 10% of the city’s population. And yet, Halifax doesn’t feel like a city that’s overcrowded with students, in the way that Ontario’s Waterloo or Toronto does. It might have something to do with the fact that it isn’t cheap to study in Halifax; in fact, Nova Scotia has some of the highest tuition rates in Canada, which deters a lot of full-time party students (that’s a heck of a lot of beer money). And despite having the most pubs per capita in the country, Halifax just doesn’t draw the kind of aimless, destructive students you’re worried about. You have to really want to come study here, and the quality of students reflects that.
It might also have something to do with the overarching friendliness of the East coast; it’s a lot harder to justify raging frat parties when your neighbour just had you all over for a lobster cookout the weekend before. Haligonians are very community oriented, and students tend to embrace this lifestyle wholeheartedly. It’s a culture that’s completely unique in Canada, and international and out-of-province students can’t help but fall in love with the easy-going and welcoming vibe. It’s hard to trash a city that’s chock full of historic landmarks and quaint mom ‘n pop shops.
While September and June might make you want to outlaw moving trucks, there’s a lot of perks to having the influx of students every year (aside from all the abandoned sidewalk furniture your heart could desire). From the financial side of things, they create a pretty significant boon to the economy year-round—unlike the hordes of tourists that leave behind chaos and desolation at the end of the summer (that might be a slight exaggeration, but you get the drift). In fact, students in Halifax spend an average of $1100 per month, which adds up pretty quickly when you consider that’s 10% of the population. They’re spending big on off-campus housing, late night wedges at “pizza corners”, taxi fare, summer storage rentals, dinners out, clothing, and so much more, and locals are the ones reaping the benefits—over $350,000,000 every school year, to be precise.
Halifax is one of the best university cities in the country, simply because it doesn’t feel like there even is a school here—let alone five. The students bring a lot more to the city than they take away; take sporting games for example, which are primetime and very serious events attended by people from all over the city that generate a ton of excitement (and cold-hard cash). The renowned NSCAD students actually contribute a ton of art to the cultural scene and local galleries, which helps boost the tourist attractions.
One of the best parts of having so many students? They get 4+ years of exposure to Atlantic life, and it’s not hard to convince them to become lifers. And with their rich collection of art, medical, and vocational degrees, Halifax welcomes these graduates with arms wide open. So if you can get over a couple weeks of traffic jams and tough-to-find parking, you’ll quickly see the dust settle and life go back to normal; after all, the students came here to see, study, and—unbeknownst to them—spend a whack of money, so let’s go ahead and let them.