Top Ten

December 10, 2014

ON to link student loan maximums to inflation

Ontario has announced changes to provincial student aid that it says will help modernize the ON Student Assistance Program (OSAP). As of the 2015–16 school year, ON will tie the maximum amount of financial aid available to students to inflation. The debt cap—the level above which student loans are forgiven—will also be indexed to inflation. The province also announced the ON Student Loan Rehabilitation Program, intended to allow borrowers who defaulted on the ON portion of their student loan to bring their loan back into good standing. The announcement reportedly makes ON the first province to index maximum student aid levels to inflation. The ON Undergraduate Student Alliance welcomed the changes. “As the cost of attending university rises, it’s imperative that loan structures for students are as predictable and consistent as possible,” said OUSA President Jen Carter. However, the Canadian Federation of Students – ON said that it is worried the changes will simply increase students’ debt load. “We would have preferred to see (cost-of-living) increases to non-repayable forms of assistance,” said CFS-O Chair Alastair Woods. Ontario News Release | Toronto Star | OUSA News Release

Trent BoG approves $15 M student centre

The Trent University board of governors has approved in principle a plan to build a new $15 M student centre on campus. The new centre will complement student residences on Trent’s Symons campus and will feature a central hub for the promotion of Trent Central Student Association (TCSA) services, clubs and groups, and other activities; formal and informal study and meeting spaces for students; offices and meeting spaces for student clubs and levy groups; expanded space for TCSA offices and services; a 500-seat multi-purpose classroom/theatre; and vendor and retail operations, including food services and entertainment spaces. Trent students will contribute $10.5 M to the project, raised from a fee levy that was approved in 2013. Trent President Leo Groarke said that the new facility “addresses an important need for students on our Symons Campus. I think they will be rewarded with a centre that greatly enriches their time at Trent.” Trent News Release

Queen’s stadium revitalization gets green light from trustees

The Queen’s University board of trustees has approved the institution’s $20.27 M stadium revitalization project. Queen’s has already raised more than $17 M for the project from donor contributions, and the university will contribute $3 M in infrastructure support. The new stadium will feature an artificial turf field, a state-of-the-art scoreboard, and bowl-style seating; it will be the home to university soccer and football teams as well as available for use by other teams and clubs. “A revitalized stadium will be extremely beneficial to the health and wellness of all of our student-athletes, from varsity teams to recreational programs, and also be a great asset to our community partners,” said Leslie Dal Cin, Executive Director Athletics and Recreation at Queen’s. The university will now move forward to engage the local community in discussions about the project. Queen’s News

SK announces new career development website

Saskatchewan has launched a new website intended to help students plan for their futures. The new website,, is described by SK Jobs Minister Jeremy Harrison as a “one-stop shop for career planning.” The site includes tools that will help students identify their aptitudes, skills, and strengths; learn about different professions; and identify available training and education opportunities within the province. One tool, called “myBlueprint,” will allow students to investigate career opportunities, set objectives, develop an educational plan, and track their progress over time. The website will be made available across SK over the coming months; it is currently being piloted with 8 school divisions and 2 First Nations. Other delivery methods are also being considered to supplement the website and improve accessibility. StarPhoenix

UoGuelph tackling students' use of study drugs

A national health survey has found that 4.6% of University Guelph students used “study drugs” like Ritalin, Adderall, and Concerta without a prescription in 2013. The rate of use at UoGuelph was nearly a percentage higher than the Canadian average for the same year. Drug use by students is clearly the exception rather than the norm; still, UoGuelph AVP Student Affairs Brenda Whiteside said that administration is taking the issue seriously, with a zero-tolerance policy toward trafficking drugs in residence. She noted that the university is also focusing on supporting students so they don’t feel the need to turn to drugs. “It’s about creating environments that are supporting students,” she said, citing study seminars, stress-relief programs, and educational sessions about the dangers of drug use. Student Marcus Criteli said that he’d like to see more educational programs that focus specifically on study drugs, and speculated that student stress over debt and employment are other contributing factors to drug abuse. The abuse of prescription drugs as study aids is a growing concern across Canada. Guelph Mercury

UBC journalism school Director sees philanthropy as funding model for high-impact reporting

Journalist Peter Klein, Director of UBC’s School of Journalism, is turning to philanthropy to help fund a new Global Reporting Centre (GRC) at the university. Klein wants the GRC, planned as an extension to UBC’s International Reporting Program, to produce in-depth journalism on complicated issues, but without the profit motive. Klein says it is critical to find new ways to fund journalism projects, especially those that can have a positive impact on the world. “It’s not just about finding new sources of funding; it’s about finding new business models that translate into long-term sustainability,” he said. But Klein knows he has his work cut out for him: while philanthropically funded journalism has become somewhat ingrained in US culture, it can be a tougher sell in Canada. “Americans tend to look more toward charity to solve problems whereas Canadians tend to look more toward government to solve social problems.” Nevertheless, he says that finding an endowment is key to his vision of the GRC, which he hopes would have an annual budget of $2.5 M.  Globe and Mail

YorkU launches new teaching and learning website

York University has launched a new website focused on teaching, learning, and the student experience. The website will offer videos, news, and updates showcasing innovative approaches to teaching being implemented at YorkU. The site will provide information on technology-enhanced and experiential learning, as well as profiling faculty. Students will also be able to find information on internship and placement opportunities. “I am very fortunate to be in contact with many faculty members who are passionate about teaching. With the support of these colleagues we have undertaken a number of initiatives to raise the profile of teaching and learning at York. The embedding of teaching and learning information on the York University home page signals our commitment to providing high quality student learning environments,” said Sue Vail, AVP Teaching & Learning. YorkU News | Teaching & Learning Website

Op-ed charges that Canada's innovation strategy is for business, not research

A new op-ed in the Globe and Mail criticizes Canada’s new science, technology, and innovation strategy as being a business strategy rather than a true science strategy. André Picard criticizes the strategy for being “short-sighted” and “self-serving.” “Innovation cannot be generated (and measured) with a simple, linear equation in which research begets technology, technology begets innovation, and innovation begets jobs,” Picard writes. Picard says that that with the new strategy, Canada is not actually supporting science but is supporting profit-making businesses. Instead, he says, the government should invest where business won’t: in basic research. He says that as a secondary purpose, the strategy should focus on known gaps and areas of public need, including Aboriginal health, mental health, and environmental repair. The strategy, Picard concludes, will not foster innovation, but compel scientists to focus on short-term projects sure to bring in continued funding. “In short,” he says, “the new science and technology strategy will result in the rich getting richer, and all of us being poorer for it.” Globe and Mail

Study exposes sexism in UK university system

A new report sheds light on the troubling issue of gender inequality in UK universities. The study, based on five years of first-hand accounts from British academics, suggests a pervasive culture of discrimination. According to researchers, just one-fifth of professors are women, and those women who do become professors make 13.5% less than their male colleagues. Informants who spoke to researchers—many of whom asked to remain anonymous for fear of repercussions—reported being attacked and belittled by male colleagues. Others said they were treated as sex objects by colleagues who made lewd and inappropriate comments about their physical features. In a statement in response to the study, UK Universities Minister Greg Clark said, “universities must do more to get women in their top positions—if you think that over half of entrants at undergraduate level are women, it is shocking that only 17 per cent of vice-chancellors are female.”  Independent (UK)

US study says liberal arts colleges should add professional programs to limit mission creep

A new study presented last month at the annual meeting of the Association for the Study of Higher Education has found that students at liberal arts colleges learn similar skills and share similar experiences regardless of their major. The research, conducted by the University of Iowa, assessed students’ skills in areas including critical thinking, moral reasoning, intercultural effectiveness, and psychological well-being. The researchers concluded that the institution a student studies at has a far stronger effect on students’ abilities than their specific major. The authors of the report interpret the results to mean that adding professional or vocational education options, such as business, engineering, or education, to a traditional liberal arts curriculum will not “lessen” a degree’s purpose; moreover, they say that expanding course offerings could help liberal arts colleges address their financial challenges. “Colleges are better able to provide residential education and small class sizes by drawing on the financial resources that are available thanks to professional and vocational programs. Adding these programs allow colleges to pursue their mission rather than close their doors,” the report says. US News