Top Ten

June 9, 2014

Nipissing approves deficit budget, raises tuition

Nipissing University’s board of governors has approved the institution’s 2014–15 budget, which projects a deficit of $11,865,864. The university attributed the deficit to declining interest in the school’s education program as well as inflating costs. Richard Onley, VP Finance, said that the budget “allows for investments in student services, recruitment and program opportunities to help grow enrolment and contribute to future prosperity. We will work to minimize the deficit by continuing to exercise fiscal responsibility while striving for efficiencies. The university is not planning any major restructuring or layoffs at this time.” The budget includes a 3% tuition increase, while allocating approximately $4 million for student financial assistance in the form of scholarships, provincial bursaries, institutional financial aid, and work-study placements. These increases to student aid represent a 3.5% rise over last year’s budget.

New data reveal impact of education costs on parents and families

Data from a survey of 604 parents commissioned by the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) suggest that many Canadian parents are making significant sacrifices to send their children to university. According to the survey results, 33% of Canadian parents have used their retirement savings to help pay for school; 64% ate out less; and 58% cut back or scaled down vacation plans to help provide financial support to their children. 35% reported that they had acquired a loan or line of credit to help pay for university. 74% of respondents agreed that it is their responsibility to help their children pay for PSE, but 81% said that financial aid applications should not include a parental income qualification. 70% said the cost of tuition was too high. Respondents also said that their children should be financially independent by age 23, but realistically believed they would not achieve that until age 25. 72% attributed the delay to the cost of PSE. CASA News Release | Globe and Mail | CBC | Full Report

Proposed QC budget gets mixed reviews on education

Quebec presented its new budget on June 4, and responses from people in PSE have been mixed. The budget includes widespread cuts in most sectors, but does include $50 million for McGill University  to conduct feasibility studies on major projects, including its plans for the Royal Victoria Hospital site. The government also allocated $500,000 a year for the next 3 years to support university entrepreneurship centres. However, the 5-year National Research and Innovation Policy announced by the previous government will be reviewed. The Fonds de recherche du Québec will also receive less funding. Jonathan Bouchard, President of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ), said, “we are now really wondering about this government’s priorities and what will happen with research and innovation.” However, McGill VP Communications Olivier Marcil noted that the budget gave universities a 6% increase, compared to just 1.8% in most other sectors. He said the budget shows that the government “understands the value of the higher education sector.” Montreal Gazette

OUSA survey explores student employment

The Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance has released a report that sheds light on student employment in the province. 55% of the 8,220 domestic students surveyed said that they had worked one job during the summer months, while 19% reported working multiple jobs. 26% did not work during the summer. Most students worked between 40 and 49 hours per week during the summer months and were able to save, on average, approximately $4,000 for their education. About one third of students said that their summer work was related to their field of study; this was most common among engineering and architecture students and least common among humanities and social sciences students. 37% of students worked concurrently with their academic studies, putting in an average of 14.5 hours per week during the school year. Engineering and architecture students and mathematics and computer science students were least likely to work during the academic term, while humanities and social science students were most likely. Just fewer than 60% of respondents said that their in-study employment had somewhat or significantly affected their academic performance. OUSA News Release | Full Report

uOttawa prof wins libel case against former colleague

Joanne St Lewis, a University of Ottawa law professor, has won a libel suit against former colleague Denis Rancourt and been awarded $350,000 in damages. St Lewis charged that Rancourt had used a racial slur to describe her on his blog. She said the slur “was like having a knife inserted and ripping through my life. He really didn’t expect or understand that it would feel that way to me, and that it would empower me to pursue the claim in the way I did.” The defendant boycotted much of the trial, describing it as a “kangaroo court,” but was present for the ruling. Justice Michel Charbonneau will now decide whether or not to impose injunctions against Rancourt that would require him to not defame St Lewis again, to remove all offending material from his blog and Internet search engines, and to have no further contact with her. St Lewis’ lawyer has also asked Justice Charbonneau to initiate contempt proceedings against Rancourt. Ottawa Citizen

Postscript: July 9, 2015

The Court of Appeal for Ontario has rejected an appeal by Denis Rancourt, a former professor at the University of Ottawa. Rancourt was found guilty of defamation in June of last year for a racial slur published on his personal blog against former colleague Joanne St Lewis. Rancourt now faces over $1 M in legal costs and damages. Ottawa Citizen | Ottawa Sun

Concordia launches crowdfunding platform for campus projects

Concordia University is helping its students and faculty “crowdfund” their projects with a new platform called “FundRise.” FundRise will allow donors to read about proposed projects and the teams behind them and choose who will benefit from their gifts. The platform is also expected to help students and professors better promote their projects. “While anyone can give to FundRise projects, the idea is to help Concordians spread the word among their networks,” said Sophie Johnson, a development officer in Advancement and Alumni Relations and FundRise Project Leader. 4 projects are currently available online for review by prospective donors, and the university is accepting applications for more. Concordia News

Sheridan, Seneca could benefit from post office lease plan

Sheridan College and Seneca College hope that a digital media company’s plans to lease a former downtown post office will benefit their students. The vacant post office is currently owned by the Town of Oakville; however, Oakville Town Council have given their okay to lease the building to a company that Town Economic Development Director Dorothy St George says will hire approximately 60 graduating students from Sheridan and Seneca college’s digital media programs. Moreover, it is anticipated that Sheridan faculty could be contracted by the company for training purposes. “The company has very ambitious goals. They’re excited about being downtown,” said St George. Sheridan President Jeff Zabudsky also expressed his enthusiasm for the plan: “It’s a testament to Sheridan’s stellar reputation in animation, film, and television that they are choosing to locate where the talent pool is strong, and this represents a great opportunity for our graduates.” Inside Halton

NIH launches strategy to promote reproducibility of published research

A group of approximately 40 medical journal editors have given their approval to a set of guidelines that would emphasize the reproducibility of published findings. The meeting was convened by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). If adopted, the guidelines could bring significant changes to many scientific journals. The new guidelines are just one part of a multifaceted strategy being undertaken by the NIH to help improve the reliability of scientific findings. Next month, NIH Director Francis S Collins will also meet representatives of the pharmaceutical industry to gather opinions on how to improve reproducibility in research. He also intends to press the industry to be more transparent in their own research and make available scientific findings that did not produce a desired result. The NIH is also making changes to its own granting processes that will privilege the quality, rather than the quantity, of applicants’ work. The Chronicle of Higher Education

Financial analyst predicts that PSE in the US will get cheaper over time

An article published by financial columnist Chuck Jaffe in Marketwatch predicts that online learning and public frustration will help deflate the cost of college in the US—eventually. While the piece concedes that it is unlikely that college will ever be cheap, it claims that tuition costs have reached a tipping point and that current pricing models are certain to “break.” Jaffe notes that the cost of college is 75%–100% higher than it was 20 years ago but says that such an accelerated rate can’t last forever. Moreover, the growth of online courses and other options for distance education will make online degrees more commonplace and force colleges to reduce costs in order to stay competitive. MarketWatch

PSE giving on the rise, defying overall donation trends

Charitable giving to nonprofit colleges in the US increased by 0.8% between February and April, according to data from fundraising-technology firm Blackbaud Inc. The figure is based on data from 558 colleges and universities, collectively representing approximately 10% of US PSE institutions. Blackbaud’s data also shows that the uptick in higher education giving bucked overall trends of donations to nonprofits. Its figures show that PSE giving in the US has steadily increased since the summer of 2013 while overall giving to nonprofits has declined. Blackbaud offers via their website a tool that enables users to break giving down on a month-to-month basis and make comparisons between different sectors. The Chronicle of Higher Education | Blackbaud Index