Top Ten

August 13, 2010

Pension reprieve, bond-rating reports underline financial strain, says Queen's

A pair of bond-rating reports on Queen's University's finances and the Ontario government's offer of temporary pension solvency relief to universities all point to the urgent fiscal challenges facing the university sector, the university states. The most recent report from Dominion Bond Rating Service marginally downgrades Queen's credit rating, pointing to the gradually expanding gap between the institution's pension fund and its projected liabilities. The latest Standard and Poors report echoes those concerns, but leaves the university's credit rating intact. In August 2008, prior to the market meltdown, the size of the gap was evaluated at $45 million. More recent projections estimate that in 2011, the unfunded liability would be $240 million. Queen's News Centre

Great Plains College removes 13 positions in "administrative streamlining"

Saskatchewan-based Great Plains College has eliminated 13 administrative positions throughout all 9 of its campuses as it looks to re-balance some of its expenditures. The job shifting, which president Mark Frison calls "administrative streamlining," leaves some campuses with no administrative bodies on site. The cuts have not left all 13 employees out of work, as many of those affected have taken other positions throughout the college. Frison is confident the streamlining process will not have any negative effect on any of the students, classes, or programs this coming academic year. He expects approximately $900,000 will be moved around to accommodate the changes. Prairie Post

uManitoba-run counselling centre closes

Last month, the University of Manitoba announced it would no longer operate the Elizabeth Hill Counselling Centre, a provincially-funded, non-profit agency run by the university's faculty of social work. The centre's 3 core programs have been parcelled out to other agencies, while uManitoba has retained a program that helps couples heal from domestic violence. Last year, the centre was projecting a $150,000 deficit, a cost uManitoba decided it could not absorb, and one the provincial government declined to cover. While research and work practicums will continue at the new agencies, says uManitoba's social work dean, the changes could complicate research access. Winnipeg Free Press

More college students seeking mental health counselling

According to new research, the number of students with moderate to severe depression who sought counselling at a US campus rose from 34% to 41% between 1998 and 2009. Researchers found that suicidal thoughts are less common among today's students, which is being credited to the growing awareness by college administrators of the importance of providing mental health services. In Canada, some university counsellors have noticed that not only are more students getting help, but the problems they have are more serious. A 5-year study of counselling services at the University of Calgary reports that the number of students presenting with severe mental illness, such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, has tripled. University counselling services are seriously under-resourced across the country, says the Mental Health Commission of Canada. Part of the problem, experts say, is most mental illnesses begin during the late teens, just as students are entering PSE. Web MD | CBC

College Sustainable Building Consortium launched

Durham College, Lethbridge College, Nova Scotia Community College, and Okanagan College have come together to create the College Sustainable Building Consortium. The partnership links training and projects relating to sustainable buildings and renewable energy, including program planning and delivery, curriculum development, and data sharing. The consortium will see the institutions work together to plan and co-ordinate applied innovation projects, and utilize connections with various industry and government agencies. Durham College News Release

SFU public health program receives CEPH accreditation

Simon Fraser University's master of public health degree is the first such program in English Canada to be accredited by the US-based Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH). SFU's health science dean says the accreditation confirms for the public health community that the program's students are studying curriculum and competencies that meet international standards. The Université de Montréal is the only other Canadian school with a master of public health program accredited by CEPH. SFU applied for CEPH accreditation because the organization does not have a Canadian equivalent. SFU News Release

Registrations up for revised Carleton O-Week

Despite protests this spring over Carleton University taking over organization of Orientation Week from the student government in an effort to make it a more inclusive and academic affair, a new partnership between Carleton and the students' association may be responsible for record numbers of students signing up to be O-Week participants and volunteers. So far, 1,000 students have signed up for the event, and one O-Week organizer expects they will hit the maximum number of 2,300. Meanwhile, 850 senior students have signed up as O-Week volunteers, 200 more than ever before. In a joint statement, Carleton and the students' association say the revised O-Week "will retain many of the traditional events but it will be expanded to include new elements and, ultimately, assist with student retention." Ottawa Sun

150 non-profit colleges fail US financial-responsibility test

According to new figures, a total of 150 private non-profit colleges failed the US Department of Education's "financial-responsibility test" based on their condition in the 2009 fiscal year, up from 127 in the 2008 fiscal year, and a 70% increase over the number of degree-granting institutions that failed 2 years ago. Among for-profit institutions, 37 failed the test for 2009, down from 48 in 2007. 9 of them netted the lowest possible score. Schools that fail the test face additional federal scrutiny of student-aid funds and, in the case of the lowest scores, extra financial obligations. The Chronicle of Higher Education (free access)

Conditional admissions for foreign students gaining acceptance in US

In an increasingly competitive global marketplace for top international students, the practice of extending conditional admissions to applicants with strong academic backgrounds but weak language skills is growing in popularity in the US. "If you don't do it, you could cut off a substantial part of your market." The practice also appeals to students hoping a conditional-admissions offer will help them get a US visa more easily than if they applied to go to the country just for language study. A growing number of colleges have formed partnerships with independent providers of English-language instruction. One company organizes recruitment fairs for its partner institutions, giving them access to its agent network, advice on recruiting overseas, and exposure to students, parents, and schools. The Chronicle of Higher Education (free access)

Australian study examines motivation, performance factors relevant to gap year

New research from the University of Sydney examines the academic factors predicting gap year intentions among high school students, and the academic profile in respect to gap year participation of post-secondary students. In the study of secondary students, findings show that post-school uncertainty and lower levels of academic motivation predict gap year intentions, that lower motivation and lower performance predict post-school uncertainty. In the study of PSE students, the findings show that gap year participation positively predicts academic motivation. Read the article abstract