Tuition Bonds

The Ivany Commission’s report¬†urges Nova Scotia to aim for 10% retention of international students. I think this is a good idea. How can we provide an incentive for these students to stay given that their families aren’t here and there are lots of job opportunities elsewhere? One idea that comes to mind is to change their tuition fees into a bond.

How would this work? Right now, international students pay roughly $16,000 per year to study in Nova Scotia. The amount varies depending on the university and program chosen. Instead of paying the tuition directly to the university, I’d like to see them pay that amount as a bond to the province, then have the province pay the university. Students who stay in the province after graduation will recoup the bond. The province will return 1/10th the starting value of the bond each year the student remains in the province. If the student leaves the province after graduation, the province redeems the bond and keeps the cash for itself.

The province keeps the investment income from the bond as a service fee for the program, ideally directing the revenues to debt repayment.

There are many reasons why international students leave the province. This won’t address all of them. We need a multi-pronged strategy involving job creation, family relocation, and other supports to meet our retention goals. The province benefits greatly from each year the international students stay in the province to work, no matter what sort of job they take. This idea could be a part of the overall strategy, and we could implement the idea right away while we work to solve the more complex retention problems.

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them in the comment box below.