Top Ten

June 17, 2015

CBC investigates loan default rates at Cape Breton distance education provider

A CBC report has raised questions about student loan default rates for a Cape Breton distance education provider. According to CBC, Mactech Distance Education has one of the lowest student loan repayment rates in Canada. Last year, 46% of Mactech students were repaying their loans on time, compared to a national average of 87%. British Columbia and Prince Edward Island both refuse to fund students who wish to attend the school. A Mactech spokesperson said many of its students lack social supports that would help them repay their loans, and that the school has a dedicated career services division to help graduates find work and repay loans. NS has so far elected to work with the college to improve the repayment rate rather than rescind its designation. CBC

McMaster approves plans to construct Living Learning Centre

McMaster University has approved plans to construct a 12-storey, $118 M “Living Learning Centre.” The multipurpose building will include eight floors of student housing as well as classrooms, informal study spaces, and student services. McMaster Dean of Students Sean Van Koughnett said that multipurpose buildings provide “a greater ability to form a better community … rather than having silos around campus.” The classroom spaces will feature a flexible layout to encourage group work and collaboration between students. In addition, the building will provide a new home for the student wellness centre and student accessibility services, bringing them out of the basement of McMaster’s student centre. McMaster expects the building to be completed by September 2019. Hamilton Spectator

Survey shows NBCC grads staying in province to work

The results of an annual survey show that many New Brunswick Community College and Collège communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick graduates are finding work in their field of study without leaving the province. According to survey data, 84% of NBCC graduates and 82% of CCNB graduates had jobs that related to their training. Of those, 86% of NBCC graduates and 90% of CCNB graduates were working in NB. “NBCC continues to contribute to social and economic prosperity in New Brunswick through applied learning … This report further reaffirms our quality and relevant programs are preparing our graduates for job opportunities here in the province,” said NBCC President Marilyn Luscombe. Sackville Tribune-Post

AB students pleased by throne speech, but eager for details

Alberta’s heard the first throne speech under its new NDP government on Monday, and many in the PSE sector were listening closely. Of particular interest were references to Bill 3, an interim supply bill that will fund essential services, including education, until the province is prepared to introduce a full budget in the fall. Romy Garrido, Chair of the Council of Alberta University Students, said that her organization was pleased to hear that PSE was referenced in the discussion of Bill 3, but added that students are eager to learn whether the government will follow through on its campaign promise to roll back “market modifier” tuition hikes. “We’re looking forward to having a seat at the table for what that will look like and the rest of their promises in the future,” she said. Metro News | CBC

Canada may be leaving billions in education exports on the table

Canada is seventh on the list of destinations for international students but could be much higher, according to a Globe and Mail op-ed. The Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE) projects that the number of students seeking education outside their home country will rise from 4.1 M in 2010 to 7.2 M by 2025. However, due in part to slow visa processing and lack of coordination, Canada could miss out. “[The challenge is] to develop a cohesive Canadian strategy to feature, highlight, promote our academic institutions, and that shouldn’t be just a city-specific or a provincial-specific strategy,” said Patricia McQuillan of Brand Matters Inc. Globe and Mail

CIHR criticized for reforms to grant processes, funding allocation

While the federal budget increased funding for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), critics say the new money comes with too many strings attached. In addition, some argue that individual research grants have not kept up with inflation. Streamlining of CIHR’s processes to reduce the burden on researchers and peer reviewers is also leading to concerns that the new structure provides insufficient support for new researchers, especially those from abroad. “I have yet to meet anybody who is not worried,” said Jim Woodgett of Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital. The decision to halve the budgets of the 13 institutes, moving the remainder of the money into a common pot, has also come under fire for its possible impact on Aboriginal health. CIHR President Alain Beaudet disputed the charges that the new funding is narrowly targeted, and said that new reforms will allow researchers to spend less time applying for grants and more time on research. The Lancet

Study shows nearly one-fifth of Canadian students restrict food intake before drinking

A new study of 3,400 first-year psychology students shows that close to one in five reduce their food intake before going out drinking. The study, led by York University PhD student Kaley Roosen, is the first Canadian study of this scale to explore this issue after the phenomenon was identified among US college students five years ago. 30% of students surveyed said that they ate more before drinking to stave off a hangover, while 18% said they ate less. Some even said they went without food for an entire day. A subsequent, related study of 226 female students found that those who ate less to get drunk faster also showed signs of depression or dependency problems; those who ate less for weight reasons scored higher for symptoms of eating disorders. National Post

Academic fraud a result of “underlying dysfunction”

After numerous irregularities were discovered, Science retracted a study by Michael LaCour that purported to show that a brief conversation with a canvasser had a lasting impact on a voter’s views on marriage equality. New York Magazine has described it as “one of the biggest scientific frauds in recent memory.” This scandal, writes Melonie Fullick in University Affairs, should not be viewed as a one-off, but as the product of a dysfunctional system in which “only one particular, narrow version of ‘best’ is noted and rewarded.” “We can’t complain about high-profile cases like this without also engaging in some critical reflection on the system in which such incidents can happen," Fullick writes. University Affairs | New York Magazine

Students in free online courses study less than traditional students

A new survey of more than 4,500 MOOC participants indicates that students in free online courses don’t spend as much time on their homework as traditional PSE students. More than 55% of students taking free courses said that they studied for two to five hours each week, while 22% said they studied for six to 10 hours. In comparison, 43% of first-year US college students responding to a 2014 survey said they spent more than six hours per week studying. However, some have called into question the value of the data. Justin Roach, a Harvard University researcher who focuses on online education, noted that students who complete surveys about MOOCs may not be typical of most students enrolled in online courses. The Chronicle of Higher Education

Lumina Foundation releases beta version of common credentialing framework

The proliferation of new approaches to credentialing has led to a fragmented system, says the Lumina Foundation. The organization warns that the absence of a common framework is causing confusion for students and employers. Lumina announced that it will begin a dialogue, involving PSE institutions and labour and business organizations, to develop a connected, transparent credentialing framework. According to Lumina, the new framework should act as a “translation tool” and serve as a common language across various credentialing systems. They have released a “beta” framework on their website, which groups competencies into categories of knowledge and skills; skills are then broken down into various subdomains. The framework is designed for flexibility, but it will likely take years before it gains widespread acceptance. Inside Higher Ed | Beta Framework