Top Ten

September 1, 2015

ESDC plans more aggressive approach to student loan collection

Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) has set more aggressive targets for collecting on debt incurred by users of the Canada Student Loans programs. The Toronto Star reports that two years ago, the amount of student debt written off by the federal government rose above $300 M and has risen in the two years since. 90% of this debt was ultimately written off because its collection had passed the six-year legal statute, mainly due to an inability to locate the debtors. The ESDC has contacted the Canadian Revenue Agency for support in improving its debt collection targets; this support could include the withholding of tax refunds, wage garnishing, and asset seizure to pay down debts. Toronto Star

OPSEU announces plan to unionize part-time college support workers

The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) has announced that it will launch a campaign to unionize part-time support staff employed by Ontario’s 24 colleges of applied arts and technology. Part-time college support staff are not generally entitled to paid sick days, paid vacation days, or health benefits like their full-time counterparts. Union President Warren “Smokey” Thomas said of the campaign, “the part-time staff are treated like disposable workers. … Once again, they have turned to us for help, because they have no protections, no benefits, no job security. It’s appalling that workers in the postsecondary education sector are subjected to such shoddy treatment.” OPSEU

RDC releases plans for new health and wellness centre

Red Deer College has unveiled the plans for its new Centre for Health, Wellness, and Sport, which will provide the college and the region with a comprehensive venue for athletic, recreational, and community activities. “This facility is more than just a building, it is about ensuring a bold, forward-focused future for the communities of central Alberta,” said RDC President Joel Ward. The facility is part of RDC’s long-term goal to become a polytechnic university. Initial work on the site is scheduled to begin this fall; major construction will begin in early 2016. The goal is to complete the project for the fall of 2018 and in 2019 the Centre will host a number of events for the Canada Winter Games. RDC | Centre Website

Retiring St Clair president speaks out on government funding

John Strasser is retiring as President of St Clair College after 15 years in that role. Both the Windsor and Chatham campuses have grown substantially during his tenure, with major construction projects and increases in enrolment. In a final interview with, Strasser spoke out, expressing his frustration that the federal and provincial governments do not fund colleges and universities equally. “Many of the policy makers and decision makers are university trained, and I understand that. But St Clair College produces a higher quality graduate than many, many universities in this country,” said Strasser. “To sit there and make smug decisions that if universities did it then it must be better. It’s incorrect. It’s just taking a status that’s probably 50 years past its prime and recycling it.” | CBC

Langara to offer new program addressing trauma, PTSD among first responders

Langara College has announced that it plans to offer a new certificate program to teach first responders and front-line workers how to cope with on-the-job trauma. Beginning this September, the course, titled “Strategic Resilience for First Responders,” will work to equip emergency workers with the coping tools needed to prevent trauma and to decrease suicide rates. “We now have pretty good tools for testing for post-traumatic stress disorder, and the rates in these first responders and front-line staff are horrendous,” said Program Coordinator Ruth Lamb. The course will be offered through Langara’s Continuing Studies department and will take ten months to complete. CBC

CFS, CASA aim to increase student engagement in federal election

The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) is wading into the federal election campaign, calling for federal parties to promise changes to PSE funding. “We could have a much better system without spending a dime more,” said CFS National Chairperson Bilan Arte. Among other items, the CFS has called for the replacement of the federal student loan program with more tuition grants. The CFS and the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) will each be working to get out the vote for the upcoming federal election. “We feel that we have a responsibility to change the narrative of apathetic young people or apathetic students,” said CASA’s Matthew Rios. In order to influence the government, he continued, they must show that their constituency is engaged and voting. CTV News (CP)

Public colleges less costly, higher quality than private, says Sault president

Sault College President Ron Common has told the Sault Star that he would “urge people and organizations to carefully consider their educational investment. … There are no shortcuts to a quality education.” Common’s comments come in the wake of news that the private company Universal Concepts plans to open a nearby trade school that will offer programming similar to some of Sault College’s. “In my opinion,” Common added, “public colleges cost less and have higher quality than private colleges.” Sault Star

Interim President defends UBC’s merits, looks to increase international standing

In a Vancouver Sun op-ed, Interim President of the University of British Columbia Martha Piper says that she believes her school should be ranked first in Canada instead of second. She responds to the 2015 Academic Ranking of World Universities, which ranks the University of Toronto as the top university in Canada. While Piper admits that UBC has had its share of media stories about leadership and academic freedom in the past month, she encourages readers to recognize the principles and tangible successes that have placed UBC in such high regard around the world. She adds that she will make it her personal goal to position UBC as the top school in the country. Vancouver Sun

Colleges still struggling to keep up with student mental health challenges

The increasing rates of mental illness among university students are stretching many institutions’ mental health services to their limit, reports the Chronicle of Higher Education. In many cases, the expectations for support that parents might have for their children outstrip what universities and colleges can provide. The article adds that “rates of anxiety and depression among American college students have soared in the last decade, and many more students than in the past come to campus already on medication for such illnesses.” In one of the colleges profiled, screening interviews with students at the counseling center increased by 65% between 2009 and 2014; individual therapy sessions rose 50% over the same period. In the US, suicide is currently the second leading cause of student deaths, after accidents. Chronicle of Higher Education (Subscription Required)

Forbes examines the “faulty economics” of higher education

The proposals by US presidential candidates to address college affordability all share a “fundamental misunderstanding of what’s driving the crisis,” according to Forbes contributor Tom Lindsay. The root of the problem, he says, is the “catastrophically naive assumption that virtually all high school graduates should go to college.” He faults federal loan programs for actually being the cause of, rather than the solution for rising costs. “Until and unless we jettison our utopian expectations,” he concludes, “increasing numbers of students will continue to pay more and more and learn less and less.” Forbes