Top Ten

March 2, 2015

CEGEPs react after students reportedly join ISIS

Montreal CEGEPs Collège de Maisonneuve and Collège de Rosemont have suspended their contracts with École des compagnons, an Islamic and Qu'Ran studies school that rented classroom space from the institutions. The move comes after officials at Maisonneuve discovered a video being circulated that was said to be "promoting values that are different from ours." “We believe we have a good reason to suspend our relationship with the École des compagnons,” said Maisonneuve spokesperson Brigitte Desjardins. “When people rent our facilities, we don’t ask them if they plan on spreading hate messages.” The suspensions of the contracts were announced as news broke that 6 young Quebecers had left Canada for Syria to join ISIS; CBC and the Globe and Mail have reported that 4 of the 6 were students at Maisonneuve as recently as last fall. Maisonneuve sent out messages to students, staff, and faculty asking them to help prevent other students from falling under the influence of radicalism. Rosemont Executive Director Stéphanie Godbout stated that "measures have already been initiated by the college to minimize this social phenomenon which has negative impacts and is dangerous for our youth." CBC | Globe and Mail | Toronto Star

Postscript: March 19, 2015

Adil Charkaoui will once again be allowed to teach courses on Arabic and the Qur’an at Montreal’s Collège de Masionneuve. Charkaoui’s contract to rent classrooms from the CEGEP had been suspended after officials discovered a video that they said was “promoting values that are different from ours” and one of his students reportedly left Canada to join ISIS. There is currently no proof that Charkaoui has committed any wrongdoing; however, Masionneuve officials have launched an investigation to determine if he was promoting “inappropriate values.” They also said that they will reserve the right to place an observer in Charkaoui’s classes. CBC

AB reportedly considering dropping tuition increase cap

Alberta Premier Jim Prentice met with the leadership of the University of Calgary on Friday amid reports that the province is considering doing away with its cap on tuition increases. When asked about the possibility on Thursday, Prentice would neither confirm nor deny the reports, stating instead that "we are working together with postsecondary institutions to hear their views on what needs to be done." He added that "all Albertans will bear some share of responsibility for dealing with the $7 B hole we find in our finances." Student leaders in AB are concerned about the implications of removing the cap. "We've heard rumblings about this, just from conversations we know our administration has had with the province ... This would really hurt access and just create a system where only the elite and rich will be able to go to university," said Erik Queenan, President of the Students' Association of Mount Royal University. Late last year, many students criticized the government for allowing market modifiersto be applied to tuition rates for some programs. Calgary Herald (1) | Calgary Herald (2) | Globe and Mail | Metro News

WLU board approves recommendations of prioritization report

The board of governors at Wilfrid Laurier University has approved the recommendations of the Integrated Planning and Resource Management (IPRM) report, which identifies academic and administrative priorities and an alternative resource allocation model. “IPRM is an important priority-setting process that enables Laurier to clearly identify those programs that, if resourced appropriately, will distinguish the university and allow it to continue to excel,” said board Chair Jamie Martin. “In approving the report recommendations, the board of governors has given the university the tools it needs to move forward in making strategic decisions.” The approval of the recommendations provides high-level strategic direction for WLU, but specific program recommendations will be decided on and implemented according to appropriate academic and administrative processes. WLU will also move toward a "responsibility-centred" budget model. The WLU Faculty Association had expressed several concerns about the report's recommendations. WLU News

ON to limit debt, extend repayment timelines of Everest students

The Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) has announced that it will limit the debt of students affected by the closure of Everest College, as well as extend repayment timelines for students' Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) loans. MTCU says that as a result of this decision, no Everest student will face an OSAP debt of greater than $7,300 for the past 2-year term, or $10,950 for a 3-year term, regardless of the amount they borrowed. MTCU is still exploring ways to help students complete their education. "We are working to ensure that affected students will not need to restart their learning. There is a process in place to ensure that prior training received by students at Everest will be recognized towards the completion of their credentials," Minister Reza Moridi said. Several institutions, including Georgian College, Centennial College, Cambrian College, and triOS College have offered support to displaced Everest Students. Windsor Star | Cambrian News Release | triOS News Release

Postscript: March 12, 2015

Ontario has announced that it will provide up to $7.6 M in financial assistance for students affected by the closure of Everest College. This amount is in addition to a $3 M Training Completion Assurance Fund posted by Everest. Ontario previously announced that it would limit the debt of eligible Everest students. In a news release, the province added that it had reviewed the files of close to 2,700 former Everest students to assess options for training completion or a refund and that so far training options had been identified for 86% of affected students. ON's Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) has signed 11 agreements with training completion providers to allow students to continue their studies. Serge Buy, CEO of the National Association of Career Colleges (NACC), welcomed the announcement. "We're pleased to see that students will be able to receive the support needed to finish their training," he said. ON News Release | Joint NACC and Career Colleges Ontario News ReleaseToronto Star

McMaster launches new mental health strategy

McMaster University launched a new mental health and wellness strategy last Wednesday. Priority areas include increased support for academic advisors and other "navigators," anti-stigma education, and the creation of a working group to develop training and resource recommendations for the campus community. Moreover, McMaster plans to implement a unified approach to helping students in difficulty, including a "Postvention" protocol for campus. The strategy further recommends that accommodation policies, processes, organizational structures, and pedagogies be adapted to meet changing needs. McMaster has also committed to expanding capacity at its Student Wellness Centre, with a focus on underserved and vulnerable student groups. Strategy Website | Inside Halton

Proposed legislation will connect unpaid student loans with ability to renew driver’s license

Students in BC who are not making payments on outstanding student loans could find themselves unable to renew a driver’s license or insure a vehicle, if proposed legislation is passed. Finance Minister Mike de Jong said that there is over $185 M in outstanding student loans in the province; the new legislation could help BC recover an additional $3 M annually. If a person’s debt is flagged for repayment by the government, under the new legislation the Insurance Corporation of BC (ICBC) could refuse to renew or issue a license, or to insure a vehicle. “For folks that graduate and get a job and are working and decide they just don’t want to take their obligation to repay their student loan seriously, this would be a mechanism to remind them on a fairly regular basis they need to honour that obligation,” said de Jong. The legislation would also apply to those who have not paid outstanding court fees and other fines. Vancouver Sun

ON universities considering jointly sponsored pension plan

Ontario's universities and their employee groups are exploring the feasibility of implementing a multi-employer, jointly sponsored pension plan. The program would be voluntary for universities, with governance, administration, and funding of the plan shared between participating institutions and plan members. Queen's VP Finance and Administration Caroline Davis emphasized that a key piece of the plan will be whether or not joining would lead to a solvency exemption. Currently, many ON universities operate in a solvency deficit, meaning that were they to close today, they would not have the funds to pay out all the benefits owed to plan members. In some provinces, universities are exempt from funding plans on a solvency basis. Without a solvency exemption in place, institutions would be forced to allocate funding away from their operating budgets. The study is being led by the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) and the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA); a final report is expected this fall. Queen's News Release

BC high school will focus on business, science

A high school in Abbotsford, British Columbia will be the province's first to focus specifically on science and business. Rick Hansen Secondary School will this fall adopt a new instructional model organized around problem-based learning. The school day won't be divided into the usual subject-based blocks; instead, students will receive interdisciplinary instruction from a team of teachers. "The parents and the kids told us that they ... want the school to be more engaging and to create connections with the business community, with postsecondary schools, and do authentic work," said Abbotsford Superintendent of Schools Kevin Godden. By the time students reach their senior years, they will be divided into separate science and business streams. Other subjects, such as English, will be delivered from the perspective of these 2 subjects. Rick Hansen will reportedly be the first school in the province to implement a combined curriculum across the entire school. Victoria Times-Colonist

Using MOOCs to market to adolescents

In an article in Inside Higher Ed, author and entrepreneur Ryan Craig claims that PSE institutions have made 2 significant mistakes in developing massive open online courses (MOOCs): they did not develop a proper business model, and they assumed that their target market was older professionals living outside the US. Craig argues that institutions are really trying to reach adolescents around the world. To achieve that goal, Craig says that institutions must rethink their approach, and consider the success not only of courses offered on sites like Udemy but also of YouTube stars. With that in mind, he says, institutions shouldn't use older, distinguished faculty members to deliver MOOCs, but younger, more digitally savvy professors and educators. Craig cites courses offered by the University and Pennsylvania and Rice University as examples of his preferred approach; they feature young, energetic, and telegenic individuals who are not necessarily faculty members. Institutions, Craig concludes, "should view MOOCs as an important channel for reaching prospective students around the world, and target content accordingly." Inside Higher Ed

PSE rankings rarely capture PSE's core mission, but grow increasingly popular

The already crowded space of college and university rankings seems to be getting more packed with each passing day. Many are skeptical of the value of rankings; Corbin Martin Campbell, a professor at Teachers College of Columbia University, noted that few rankings "speak to the education core of an institution," or take into account the rich, relevant data that institutions themselves possess. Nevertheless, each new entrant tries to position itself as an innovator in the market, basing scores on things like post-PSE outcomes and student debt. Money magazine's rankings, for instance, focus on affordability and the return on graduates' education investment. Some websites, such as PayScale and LinkedIn, use the rankings as a means to increase their own membership or to market their own services. PayScale, for instance, now has US colleges encouraging their alumni to submit salary data to the website. PayScale gets more data, while the college—hopefully—moves up in the rankings. Of course, most publications ultimately publish rankings because they sell. "Everybody likes a good list," said Diane Harris, an editor at MoneyThe Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription Required)