Top Ten

May 22, 2020

NL launches new Students Supporting Communities Program creating work opportunities

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has announced the launch of a new Students Supporting Communities Program. The program will provide grants to organizations that will enable them to hire students to support vulnerable groups facing social isolation during the pandemic. “Intergenerational and community connections create important opportunities to reduce and eliminate the isolation and loneliness that many people may be feeling during this Public Health Emergency,” said Minister of Children, Seniors and Social Development Lisa Dempster. “The Students Supporting Communities Program will facilitate those connections by mobilizing students to help individuals connect with and access vital supports and services.” NL (NL)

Balancing budgets on the back of Canadian higher ed: Opinion

“Coming out of the COVID-19 crisis with depleted budgetary capacity, colleges and universities should expect governments to impose fiscal austerity measures upon them once again,” writes University of Ottawa Professor Michael A O’Neill. Harkening back to the 2008 financial crisis, O’Neill suggests that past decisions to flatten or decrease public spending on colleges and universities produced lasting consequences for higher education in Canada, such as increases to tuition, average class sizes, employment of contract teaching staff. While the author notes that such cutback are “inevitable across society,” the author argues that critical policy must be asked about the nature and impacts of these cuts on students, staff, and institutions more broadly. “Governments should resist the temptation to fix their budget deficits too quickly on the back of higher education,” concludes O’Neill. Policy Options (National)

Laval suspends international student exchanges

Université Laval has announced that all international exchanges that had been planned for the Fall term have been suspended due to the Government of Canada’s request to avoid non-essential travel. Laval stated that exceptions may be made for select dual-pathways and pathway programs, including co-supervision and research stay situations. However, these students and researchers will still be subject to the general travel rules in force by the university. International students enrolled in a regular program will be able to continue their training at a distance. Radio Canada (QC)

ON defers deadline for provincial funding change

The Government of Ontario has deferred the deadline for colleges and universities to sign onto a change to provincial funding. The province’s 2019 budget included a plan to increase performance-based funding in the 2020-21 academic year from 1.4% for universities and 1.2% for colleges to up to 25% for each institution, with that number reportedly rising to up to 60% within five years. The Huffington Post reports that the funding change has been deeply controversial due to concerns about the impact of external factors on the metrics and compromising institutional integrity. Huffington Post (ON)

Students lead community-minded projects

Postsecondary students continue to find innovative ways to support their communities amid the pandemic. Students from the College of New Caledonia's health care assistant program helped the Prince George Health Services Hand Hygiene Campaign by conducting awareness campaigns about the importance of hand hygiene at long-term care facilities. A Western University student-led team called The Kind Collective has been raising money for Mission Services of London by gathering used and vintage clothes and other items and selling them through online platforms. Meanwhile, at the University of Windsor, there has been an uptick in students volunteering to work on the Campus Community Garden, a project that helps address food security issues in surrounding communities. Prince George Citizen | Western | UWindsor (BC, ON)

How can schools promote student social distancing beyond campus gates?

Detailing incidents of large graduation celebrations among American students, Greta Anderson writes that such incidents have made it clear “that protecting students from each other, as well as the larger campus and neighboring communities, will not be limited to classrooms and residence halls.” While some American schools are considering COVID-19 specific amendments to institutional codes of conduct, the author notes that policing student behavior off-campus is decidedly more complicated. Some proposed approaches include school-community collaborations, and educating students on COVID-19 data through awareness campaigns, with some schools taking an approach that mimics on-campus tobacco-ban enforcement. Inside Higher Ed (International)

King’s UC announces modified residence plans for September 2020

King’s University College has announced modified plans for students moving into residences this September that are appropriate for the COVID-19 environment. New measures will include single occupancy rooms, assigned washroom locations for each resident, and an extension on the residence deposit refund deadline. “We are implementing these changes to address pandemic-related safety concerns and ensure residents and their families have greater peace of mind,” says King’s UC Associate Dean of Students, Residence and Campus Life – Student Affairs Doreen Vautour. King’s UC (ON)

AB medical students reconsidering a career in the province: Opinion

Actions taken by the provincial government have left medical students concerned about what a career in the province would look like, write University of Calgary medical students Carmen Soltys and Josh Kariath and physician Alexis Katzell. In light of a recent open letter signed by over 100 medical students, the authors reflect on how they have seen mentors leave for opportunities in other provinces, a reduction in the number of rural rotations and placement opportunities, and conflicts arise between the priorities of AB and its doctors. “Educating world-class physicians takes government investment in universities and support for rural medicine recruitment programs. It’s a mutually beneficial partnership built on trust,” conclude the authors. “As Albertan medical students […] we’re still working to build skills to make this province better. But we cannot do that without knowing whether or not the government supports patient needs.” The Province (AB)

Crisis is an opportunity to invest in BC higher ed

“With no new funding being provided by either level of government, colleges and universities face difficult decisions around spending cuts in order to balance their budgets, as required by law,” write University of Victoria on-campus union leaders Sheryl Karras, Lynne Marks, Greg Melnechuk, Kirk Mercer, and Byron Spiers. Speaking in the British Columbia context, the authors suggest that budget cuts made necessary by a lack of government funding could contribute to layoffs, undercutting the province’s economic recovery. “The current crisis provides an opportunity to invest in the further education sought by British Columbians and in this way build a stronger, more diversified economy that will be less vulnerable to future economic disruptions,” posit the authors. Times Colonist (BC)

MHC announces program in-take suspensions, layoffs due to budget cuts

Medicine Hat College has reported that they have cut five degree programs and 41 jobs due to provincial budget cuts. Following a mandated budget reduction of $6M, the college will suspend new applications for those seeking to become educational assistants, social work and addiction counsellors; obtain a bachelor of business administration degree; or take initial engineering courses that can be transferred to other institutions. According to Medicine Hat News, this announcement comes on the heels of an earlier announcement about a 7% tuition increase for students this fall. With regard to job losses, a college release states that the full-time positions will be lost by a combination of voluntary leave programs and permanent layoffs, though no breakdown is provided. Medicine Hat News (AB)