Post-secondary impacts smarts, health and happiness

We know Halifax is smart – we have the numbers to prove it. But what do those numbers mean to our communities? The impact of post-secondary education on local and regional economic development can easily be linked to a number of things: the impact of direct spending, increased individual earnings and a better skilled work force. Simply put, we’re all benefiting from post-secondary education. To measure the social and cultural benefits however, is not quite as simple.

 Being home to over 30,000 students, you may not always see the positive relationship between the university system and Halifax. A study by The Association of Atlantic Universities shows that people with post-secondary degrees have a higher life expectancy, an improved quality of life and increased social status. When you compare the student population of Halifax with these positive spin-offs, we really should thank our post-secondary institutions for not only making us a smart city, but a happy, healthy city too.

The benefits of post-secondary institutions have a domino effect that stretches out to our communities and beyond.  For instance, Dalhousie University has more than 200 charitable community service initiatives. The Dalhousie Dentistry Clinic provides dental care for seniors, students, families, refugees and many others who can’t afford these services. DAL also brings in nearly $80 million in health studies research funding each year.

Not only are our post-secondary institutions helping to improve the health of our communities, they are also providing support and resources to local businesses and organizations. Mount Saint Vincent University’s Centre for Women in Business provides entrepreneurs with the tools they need to get going. Not only that, the Centre also showcases outstanding women entrepreneurs at their annual awards ceremony.

These positive spin-offs are felt by all ages throughout our communities. The presence of our post-secondary institutions promotes education at a young age and gets students thinking about their future. Saint Mary’s University strongly believes in the researchers and innovators of tomorrow and hosted the 2009 Team Nova Scotia Showcase for the winners of the year’s regional high school science fairs.

These contributions are only a mere fraction of the amount of community support that is provided by the Nova Scotia university system. Being a volunteer myself, I take pride in my efforts to get involved and lend a hand where needed. And I’m not the only one; more than 17,000 members of the region’s university community were involved in charitable undertakings in 2009.

For a working student, there are always opportunity costs to committing a Saturday to volunteering, but whether it is standing on the side of the road collecting change for Shinerama or the simplicity of generating a smile, the outcomes certainly outweigh the costs.

Dalhousie has between 5,001-10,000 volunteers alone. So maybe the next time you hear a ‘celebration,’ think that maybe these students are celebrating a victory, or the success of an event. For Atlantic Canada, education surrounds us; it is instilled in us at young age and is supported and promoted throughout our adult lives. These social and cultural benefits are what bring universities and communities together.


Halifax is Canada’s smart city.  We have one of the largest concentrations of universities and colleges in North America and one of the best educated workforces in all of Canada.  This series explores and celebrates the numerous post-secondary assets in Halifax; the sector’s impact on our economy and community; research and commercialization; and partnerships between post-secondary and business.

This post was written by Brianna Colford,  the Partnership’s Marketing & Communications Co-op Student. She is in her final semester of Public Relations at Mount Saint Vincent University and spent the past 14 months working with Emera Inc. as a Communications Assistant. Born and raised in Halifax, Brianna enjoys the downtown atmosphere of the city she loves to call home.


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