Top Ten

April 1, 2014

NS to eliminate interest on student loans

The Nova Scotia government has announced it will eliminate the interest on provincial student loans, beginning with qualifying borrowers who entered repayment on or after November 1, 2007. These borrowers won't be reimbursed for interest they've paid since that date, but they will no longer pay interest going forward. There are roughly 18,000 borrowers who could be eligible to benefit annually, says an NS news release. The average NS student loan is about $5,600; eliminating the interest would save about $800 over the lifetime of the loan. NS has committed $1.6 million annually to fund the move. StudentsNS welcomed the announcement, but said that NS should take further strides to support students by following the example set by Newfoundland and Labrador; NL announced last week that it would replace all student loans with non-repayable grants. NS News Release | StudentsNS

Quebec charter would include mandatory French exam at English CÉGEPs

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois announced last week that the Parti Québécois’ proposed French language charter, if passed, would mean students at English-language CÉGEPs would have to pass a French-language proficiency exam to graduate. "If our official language and our common language is French, it's normal that in our public institutions we expect that someone who is a graduate of a public institution can understand the official language," says Marois. According to the Montreal Gazette, Quebec’s English CÉGEPs rejected the idea when it was brought up in an earlier version of the bill in 2012, calling it unnecessary and restrictive. Students at English CÉGEPs already must pass 2 French courses before they graduate; students with no French background may take a non-credit introduction course for one semester to be able to take the basic-level CÉGEPs course. Montreal Gazette

Canada announces over $88 million for new, renewed Research Chairs

The Canadian government has announced over $88 million for 102 new and renewed Canada Research Chairs at 33 PSE institutions across the country. The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) also announced today more than $3 million in new funding for research infrastructure that will support the latest appointments to the Research Chairs. As part of the CFI announcement, Canada has also committed an extra $1 million through the Infrastructure Operating Fund, which helps PSE institutions with the incremental operating and maintenance costs associated with the new infrastructure. Canada News Release | CFI News Release

Mountain Equipment Co-op outlet opens at UBC bookstore

Retailer Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) has opened an “Outpost” location at the University of British Columbia’s campus bookstore in an effort to connect with young adults. Apart from its outdoor activity products, MEC will also offer students monthly clinics including spin class, running and standup paddle boarding. “Youth activity drops off severely after high school and that is one of the reasons that we’re targeting this after-high school age group,” says MEC Chief Retail Operations Officer Gary Faryon. “[We want] to help inspire them and help facilitate them finding a way to get outside and stay active.” MEC was established by 4 members of UBC’s varsity outdoors club in 1971; the new outpost is a pilot project, and part of a long-term agreement with UBC. “People are very excited about their arrival,” says UBC spokesperson Rebecca Irani. “Because Vancouver is a very outdoor community, something like MEC does fit very well, particularly on our campus.” Faryon says MEC plans to roll out similar programs across the country. Toronto Star

uSask opens Medication Assessment Centre for public

The University of Saskatchewan College of Pharmacy and Nutrition has opened a Medication Assessment Centre that will allow students to gain experience by offering assessment services to patients who take 5 or more medications, experience drug-related side effects, have trouble remembering to take their medication, have chronic conditions, or have questions about taking multiple drugs. “By participating in real patient interactions early and often in their undergraduate training, students will be better prepared to quickly integrate into the health system upon graduation,” explains a uSask news release. The centre will also allow practicing pharmacists to refine their medication assessment skills by participating in the clinic. uSask News Release

MUN opens Boreal Ecosystem Research Facility

Memorial University has opened a new $8.1-million Boreal Ecosystem Research Facility at its Grenfell Campus; the 500-square-metre facility will provide resources to support and inform federal, provincial, university and private sector research priorities in forestry, agriculture and the environmental sector. The Canadian government contributed more than $2 million towards the facility, the Newfoundland and Labrador government contributed $1 million, and MUN funded $5 million for the project. “[The centre will] create an enhanced capacity for R&D that will help enrich and develop growth industries in Newfoundland and Labrador,” says NL Regional Minister Rob Moore. MUN News Release

WLU to create new integrated Wellness Centre at Waterloo campus

Wilfrid Laurier University will be merging its existing Counselling Services and Health Services offices into a single Wellness Centre at its Waterloo campus, in an effort to enhance support for students’ physical, emotional and mental health. A WLU news release explains that the centre will use a “circle of care” approach, offering comprehensive wellness support in which a multidisciplinary team will combine professionals offering medical care, counselling and mental health services. The change was spurred from recommendations made during an external review of student wellness at WLU conducted last summer. Other recommendations included hiring a mental health/student support team leader, and building stronger connections with community partners to ensure that if students can’t get the help they need on campus, they can still be connected with the appropriate external resources. WLU News Release

Study finds taking notes by hand leads to higher retention

A new study by researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles and Princeton University suggests that writing notes by hand on paper leads to better academic performance than typing notes. Daniel M Oppenheimer and Pam Mueller compared 2 groups of students by providing them with either a pen and paper, or a laptop with which to take notes on a lecture, telling them to use the method they’re used to, and testing them 30 minutes later. While laptop users took almost twice the amount of notes as those writing notes by hand, they scored significantly lower in the conceptual part of the test; both groups had similar scores on the factual test. In another part of the study, participants were asked not to simply take notes verbatim, by “mindlessly transcribing content.” Students who used laptops in this portion of the test received lower scores in both conceptual and factual tests than did those who were writing out their notes. Chronicle of Higher Education

US studies suggest mandatory entrance tests improve enrolment

Two recent studies in the US suggest that mandatory PSE-preparation tests may improve access and enrolment rates. A study by researchers at the College Board reveals that Maine experienced an increase of 2-3% in enrolment rates after requiring all high school students to take the SAT. A second study released by test provider ACT reveals that since Colorado and Illinois implemented a mandatory ACT test, their enrolment rates have increased by 1% and 2%, respectively. A couple of Canadian academics recently wrote in the Globe and Mail that some Canadian universities would benefit from a SAT-type entrance exam. Inside Higher Ed | College Board Study | ACT Study

US library directors call for less-restrictive ebook publishing license agreements

Directors at 66 US liberal arts colleges have called on academic libraries to reject licensing agreements with publishers that impose restrictions on how online books can be accessed and shared. The directors say that by signing such agreements, “we turn our backs on a great strength of the academy -- the ability to build complementary collections and share them in good faith with researchers and the community of readers.” They have also suggested 12 principles that should guide new licensing agreements with publishers; many of the principles make it easier for libraries to make the ebooks more accessible for users in various locations and on different platforms. Inside Higher Ed