Top Ten

February 26, 2013

Quebec universities say tuition fee indexation will result in layoffs

McGill University principal Heather Munroe-Blum says the Quebec government's plan to impose limited tuition fee increases while cutting government funding for education will force her to lay off staff. The government plans to implement a form of indexation of university tuition fees, resulting in increases of about $70 a year. But the government has already told universities they would have to cut $250 million from their budgets. The announcement left universities telling the province they will have to reduce staff and explore other ways to cut costs, which will likely result in a lower quality of education. The government ended the PSE summit with an announcement to hire 1,000 university professors and other personnel in a bid to appease the anger of the planned tuition fee increase. CTV | Globe and Mail

Student loan writeoffs reach $540 million

The federal government is writing off another $231 million in unpaid student loans this year from more than 44,000 cases, meaning taxpayers are on the hook for more than half a billion dollars in uncollected student debt over the past few years. Supplementary spending estimates call for another $231 million in the 2012-13 fiscal year to write off 44,048 Canada Student Loan debts. The new cash for 2012-13 is in addition to nearly $312 million on the books from the 2011-12 fiscal year to cover unpaid loans from 98,448 debts dating back more than a decade. Together, taxpayers are on the hook for more than $540 million to cover uncollected student loan debt. Postmedia News

CAUT committee to investigate academic freedom concerns at Brock

The Canadian Association of University Teachers has set up an ad hoc investigatory committee to examine concerns of 5 academic staff members at Brock University regarding their right to criticize a program established in relation to a Brock agreement with the Catholic Diocese of St. Catharines and regarding Brock's handling of complaints against the 5 staff members' actions in opposition to the program. The committee's terms of reference are to investigate Brock's handling of complaints against the staff members, to examine Brock's Respectful Work and Learning Environment Policy and the procedures for handling complaints under the policy, to determine whether there were breaches of or threats to the staff members' academic freedom, and to make any appropriate recommendations. CAUT

MAPS scandal a reason to end mandatory student union membership, say Ontario PCs

The Ontario Progressive Conservatives are citing the spending scandal at the McMaster Association of Part-time Students as a reason to consider ending mandatory student union membership at PSE institutions. Students deserve the chance to opt out if their association misuses student fees, according to a recent PC policy report. The document also suggests "legislative tools" to hold student associations to account, citing the MAPS scandal as an example of "misappropriation" of student fees. The PC's higher education critic says he wants to "empower students to take matters into their own hands when they feel funds have been misappropriated." Brad Duguid, Ontario's new Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, says he is willing to discuss "best practices" and "standards" for student unions, but doesn't plan on "imposing the provincial will" on elected student governments. Hamilton Spectator

PEI student mailing exposes SIN digits

The PEI government is apologizing to PSE students after a mail-out left their SIN digits clearly visible in the envelope window. The error was revealed when government officials received a call from an upset parent. A statement from the Department of Advanced Learning blames the error on a faulty mailing machine. The mailing went out to recipients of PSE grants and bursaries, which includes a large portion of students in PEI, but the province has no way of knowing how many mailings were affected by the faulty machine. Department Statement | CBC

Canada reaches 100,000 international students

Citizenship and Immigration Canada Minister Jason Kenney announced yesterday that the country welcomed a record number of international students in 2012. Last year was the first time in Canadian history that the country has welcome more than 100,000 international students, an increase of 60% from 2004. CIC News Release

MUN to examine feasibility of law school

Memorial University will again examine the feasibility of a law school. The institution last explored the law school option in 1987. The review will be restricted to consideration of a faculty of law as a professional school rather than a degree program or department of law. The review will also explore the demographics of existing law schools in Canada, current and future needs for more lawyers, and benefits to MUN, among other goals. The review committee is expected to present a report later this year. MUN News

iPad integration, increased bandwidth at Olds College

Celebrating its centennial this year, Alberta-based Olds Colleges notes that this year students and instructors will be engaged in collaborative projects using iPads, the campus will offer the highest bandwidth per student in the country, and students will learn what it's like to be an entrepreneur by using an iPad application that is a gamified course. College instructors are currently preparing for iPad integration for this September. "We think the iPad is the best mobile learning device available today," says the college's VP academic and research. "Olds College will be the first fully integrated iPad learning environment in Canada. We are future-proofing the college for the digital generation." By September, the college will move to 1GB high speed Internet, thus having more bandwidth per student than any other PSE institution in Canada, and will upgrade its Wi-Fi to allow up to 2 devices per person to be connected in all educational spaces. Olds College is also launching gamified curriculum, providing an iPad-based app in entrepreneurship for students. All new students entering the college with a longer-term certificate, diploma, or applied degree will be required to complete this app as part of a graduation requirement. Olds College

New BC Colleges website shows how colleges address pending skills gap

BC Colleges has launched a new website designed to give more prominence to the role BC's 11 public colleges play to educate and train BC residents and help the province avoid a predicted skills gap. The site includes an "info-graphic" video that explains how the combination of an aging workforce and a growing knowledge-based economy will result in labour shortages unless the workforce is prepared appropriately. The new site provides up-to-date facts about the BC public college system, connects visitors to the latest BC labour market information, and highlights key initiatives undertaken by BC's colleges. BC Colleges News Release

uPhoenix faces probation by accreditor

The University of Phoenix expects to be placed on probation this spring by its accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. uPhoenix's owner, Apollo Group Inc., made the announcement Monday in a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, stating a team of reviewers from the Higher Learning Commission concluded that uPhoenix had insufficient autonomy from its corporate parent. Aside from the governance matter, uPhoenix was largely in compliance with the accreditor's standards, the filing says, though a draft report from the accrediting team also raised concerns about graduation and retention rates, assessing student learning, and uPhoenix's reliance on federal student aid. An Apollo Group official says the company will appeal probation recommendations for uPhoenix and Western International University, another Apollo Group subsidiary, but will also work closely with the accreditor to resolve the issues. The Chronicle of Higher Education (free access)