Archive for Josh Dehaas
“Flat fees” change and “deferral fees” are done
Ontario announced today that it is making long-anticipated policy changes that will make it easier to pay tuition in that province, a plan that will likely be unpopular with university administrators who will struggle to make up for lost revenue. Beginning in 2014-15, colleges and universities will:
1. No longer be allowed to require fall semester tuition fees before the beginning of August
2. No longer require students who complete Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) applications by the beginning of August to pay their tuition before receiving their financial aid
3. No longer charge deferral fees or interest to those who pay tuition in per-term installments
4. No longer collect deposits of more than $500 or 10 per cent of tuition, whichever is greater
Ontario will also make it cheaper to take less than a full course load. As of fall 2015, university students will be charged on a per-credit basis if they take less than a 70 per cent course load, rather than the full-time student rate charged at some schools. In 2016, that threshold will rise to 80 per cent. Students with disabilities will be charged on a per-credit basis regardless of course loads.
Currently, some universities charge the same tuition rate for anyone taking a course load of 60 per cent or greater. Student groups like the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance and University of Toronto Students’ Union have long opposed the policy. Meric Gertler, University of Toronto president, recently said that changes to flat fees could cost U of T $16 million a year in lost income.
Montreal among top 10 places to study
A global ranking by QS of the Best Student Cities in 2014 puts Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver all in the top quartile of those considered.
The top 50 rankings considered 14 factors including how highly the city’s schools are ranked, what proportion of residents are students, results of two major quality of life surveys, popularity with domestic and global employers and cost of living.
QS says it considered 98 cities this year. All of those considered had more than 250,000 people and at least two universities ranked in the QS World University Ranking, ruling out places like Edmonton and Halifax, although Ottawa would qualify and doesn’t appear in the top 50.
Here are the top 10 cities, plus the rankings of the Canadian cities that made the top 50.
One seriously injured, 30 relocated
The University of Guelph has confirmed that a fire in Dundas Hall, East Residence on Saturday evening, just a few days before the start of final exams, was set by a 20-year-old male student. The student was injured and admitted to hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries. Two staff members were also taken to a hospital and released. Although the fire was contained to the student’s room, about 30 other students in the building were relocated as a precautionary measure. The university says it is “aware that there is disturbing social media activity circulating about this incident,” and has reminded students and employees that emergency counseling is available.
Perhaps a Chinese university would make more sense
The University of Ottawa’s English newspaper thinks French-speaking Ontarians deserve “a university to call their own,” because, they argue, “Franco-Ontarians are plenty in number but hugely underrepresented at universities.”
They quote Geneviève Latour, a student and co-president of the Regroupement étudiant franco-ontarien, an advocacy group. “It’s really a question of having the right to it,” she says.
Oh please. Francophone Ontarians are neither “large in numbers” nor “underrepresented.” In fact, they’re quite well-served already. Ontario does not need another francophone university.
The Fulcrum and Latour should check out the study on francophone post-secondary participation published this week by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario. It says that students from French-language school boards are slightly more likely to attend university than average.
That’s not surprising considering the number of options available to study in English or French.
Graphic: employment outcomes for 10 disciplines
An annual survey by the Council of Ontario Universities asks new graduates what they took in school, whether they were employed full-time two years after graduation and how much money they made. The numbers are useful for tracking the demand for degrees. The trend isn’t looking good.
Chart 1 shows the percentage of grads reporting full-time work two years after university for 10 of the most common degrees. For nine out of 10, fewer class of 2010 grads were employed than class of 2008 grads with the same degrees. (The exception, oddly enough, was journalism.) This suggests things actually got worse for grads since the economy recovered from the 2009 recession.
Chart 2 shows average salaries of graduates two years post-graduation. The overall average has remained around $49,000 since the recession but there were winners and losers. The computer science class of 2010 averaged $5,050 more than the class of 2007. The engineering class of 2010 made $2,032 more. Journalism, however, was down by $2,099 and humanities dropped by $1,509.
Richard Florizone plans for more partnerships
Richard Florizone, a nuclear physicist with an impressive CV that includes Cambridge University, Bombardier, the University of Saskatchewan and the World Bank, was installed last month as president of Dalhousie University in Halifax, N.S.
In his installation speech, he outlined a vision for the 21st century research university as a place where industry, government, non-profits, researchers, learners and community members collaborate. He gave this interview over the phone.
Tell me about your path to the president’s office.
I started out as an engineer and a physicist doing my Ph.D. in physics. Until I got to MIT, I assumed I’d become a professor but once I got [there] I saw that people did all kinds of things with their degrees, whether it was going on to be faculty, starting companies, working in government or in think tanks. The other thing I realized through my graduate work was that, as interested as I was in science and physics, in trying to understand the forces behind the universe, I found I was at least as interested in people and how they work together.
Is it just me or do a lot more university presidents these days have those industry skills?
I don’t have the numbers but, if it is a trend, I’d say the reason behind it is a couple things. One is a recognition these days that universities aren’t ivory towers alone anymore. We still have that function but there’s increasing recognition about the kinds of support and partnerships we require.
Divestment movement gets a boost
The Dalhousie Student Union unanimously passed a motion on Wednesday calling for the university’s Board of Governors to end investments in fossil fuels, putting pressure on the school to respond. It’s a win for a global movement that wants to hurt the industry they say causes climate change.
“It is morally bankrupt for an institution who claims to be a leader in sustainability to profit off the extraction of fossil fuels, the warming of the climate, and the displacement of millions of people, ” said Divest Dal member Rob McNeish, according to a press release.
Professors clog up clinic with students who may not be ill
Jane Collins is a very dedicated campus nurse. So dedicated, in fact, that she offers her cell phone number to students at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax so she can advise them after hours. She picked up on the first ring when Maclean’s On Campus called to find out whether she’d really stopped writing sick notes for those who show up to the campus health clinic, as reported by CBC.
She hasn’t entirely but says that, after 19 years on the job, she’s fed up that professors still ask students to get excuse notes for missed midterms, which is often a waste of time. The registrar has twice asked deans to pass that message along to professors but it’s not getting through.
Man, 18, recovering after campus attack
An 18-year-old male University of British Columbia student is recovering after being slashed in the back several times with a knife during an early morning attempted robbery, according to UBC RCMP. Police offered a written statement that says the attack is not connected to the recent series of late-night sexual assaults on campus. They warned students to be “constantly vigilant and aware of their potential vulnerability when walking alone on Campus in the very early hours of the morning.”
From the release:
The student was returning to his student residence complex in the 2500 block of West Mall just after 4 a.m. when he was suddenly confronted from behind by an unknown male brandishing a small knife and demanding his wallet and mobile phone. The attacker lunged towards the student slashing at him as the student attempted to run away. The student escaped from his attacker, foiling the robbery, however the student did sustain several superficial cuts to his back and shoulders requiring minor medical treatment. The attacker fled on foot in an unknown direction after the student escaped. The attacker is described as an Caucasian male approximately 40 years old. This male had a greying beard and short grey hair. He was of average build and was wearing a light coloured hoodie and black sweat pants.
Recent survey of international students might surprise you
In 1916, Bill Boeing went to MIT to hire his first chief engineer. He picked Wong Tsoo, a Chinese guy who had emigrated to England at the age of 16 for undergrad before crossing the Atlantic for graduate school. Wong quickly got to work on Boeing’s first commercially successful plane, the C-Model. Imagine how different the airline industry might have been had another country’s university—Canada’s perhaps—enticed Wong. Both Canada and the U.S. had racist anti-Chinese policies at the time, such as the Head Tax, but if Canada had been less racist than America, might the Wongs of the era have chosen McGill?
We’ve come a long way since then. From 2001 to 2008, the number of international students in Canada increased at a rate of 4.3% per year; between 2008 to 2012 the annual increase was, astonishingly, 12.3%. There were 265,377 in 2012 (74% of them in post-secondary schools). We now get five per cent of all international students worldwide, making Canada the seventh most popular destination after the US, UK, China, France, Germany and Australia, according to Project Atlas.
Economist says federal tuition credits aren’t working
Many families with university or college students get a rare bit of good news around tax time. They find out students are eligible for tuition tax credits worth an average of $2,000 per year that can be transferred to parents in the likely event the student hasn’t made enough money to pay taxes. Students who don’t want to share or whose parents don’t earn much can save them up and get a break on income taxes when they start working full-time. It’s a big break. So big, in fact, that it can amount to between 31 percent and 43 percent off tuition, depending on the province. How many people know they exist before starting school? Surprisingly, no one knows how many.
It almost makes you wonder why the government doesn’t just give students the money before they pay tuition. The C.D. Howe Institute, a non-partisan think tank, wonders about the same thing. Christine Neill, a Wilfrid Laurier University economist, has written a commentary on the $1.6-billion of education tax credits the federal government hands out each year. Amazingly, she says it’s the first real analysis of them, despite various iterations of the credits being around for decades.
Where smoking is outlawed it does more harm than good
Students at the University of Prince Edward Island are pushing to ban smoking on campus. Cigarettes, they say, are not only deadly for the poor schmucks who choose to light up but also harmful to the non-smoking citizens forced to walk through their carcinogenic clouds. The student union, reasonably enough, wants a plebiscite.
I’m not a smoker. I think unwanted cigarette smoke is annoying and gross. Ontario’s government must have polling showing many people feel the same way or they wouldn’t have, just yesterday, banned smoking outside at restaurants and bars. I can think of more useful things for the province to do (for example, working on the deficit) but research has shown that smoke doesn’t easily dissipate outside on patios when people are sitting so at least there’s science behind the policy.
But that’s as far as it should go. Campus-wide bans are pointless, draconian and unnecessary.
Big ideas from Switzerland, Tennessee, Israel and Australia
Canada has fallen behind or is at risk of falling behind other countries in education and training if we don’t get our act together. That was a common theme at two conferences last week in Toronto, one hosted by The Conference Board of Canada, which is developing a Centre for Skills and Post-Secondary Education, and the other by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, a provincial agency that does research and offers policy advice to government. Speakers from several countries offered innovative ideas worth considering. Here are four of the most intriguing.
Switzerland streams into vocations
The Swiss government encourages apprenticeships and, unlike in Canada, 40 per cent of companies take them on. Many high school students are streamed into vocations starting at age 11 or 12 and are in factories or offices getting job experience by 15 or 16. “In Canada, if you have a university degree you’re somebody [but] vocational not so much,” said Urs Obrist, an Embassy of Switzerland expert who spoke at the CBOC conference. In Switzerland, he said, people accept that, “some horses are work horses, some are show jumpers and some are race horses.” However, the system is flexible enough that “late bloomers” can change streams. He pointed out that Switzerland has a very low youth unemployment rate. In 2012, 8.4 per cent of Swiss aged 15 to 24 were unemployed, the second lowest among 33 rich countries. Canada was 12th at 14.3 per cent.
Marks needed to get into university keep going up
The average grade of high school students entering universities in their home provinces hit 85% in 2012, according to data from 48 universities published in the 2014 Maclean’s University Rankings. The 2008 Maclean’s University Rankings, which used grade data mostly from 2007, showed an entering average of 83% across 42 universities. That’s an increase of two per cent in five years.
There are surprising regional differences too. Only four of the 42 schools considered in the 2008 rankings had lower entering grades in 2012 but three of them were in Quebec: Montréal, Sherbrooke and Bishop’s. The fourth was Saint Mary’s in Halifax, N.S. And only four schools improved their average grades by more than three per cent. Again, a regional pattern emerges: three out of four are in British Columbia: UBC, UNBC and SFU. The fourth is Waterloo. Particularly eye-catching is the number of students at these schools with averages of more than 90%. At UBC the proportion with 90% or higher went from 30.8% in 2007 to 54.1% in 2012; at UNBC from 19.3% to 34.1%; at SFU it from 15.7% to 39.5% and at Waterloo from 26.5% to 44.8%
Campus pubs suffer from costly servers and low prices
Ask a pub owner to describe a dream location and it would have to be where thousands of thirsty twentysomethings pass by each day. That’s why Noah Davis-Power is dumbfounded that the Breezeway, the bar run by his student union, has lost roughly $120,000 a year for two years. Its owner, the Memorial University of Newfoundland Student Union, has a total budget of $1.2 million, most of which comes from mandatory student fees. “If you worked it out real quick,” says Davis-Power, “each student’s losing $10 a year [at the bar]. That’s two beer poured down the drain.”
Campus pubs propped up by student fees are surprisingly common, due to bad management, high labour costs and pressure from students for artificially low prices. By the time the University of Windsor’s Thirsty Scholar pub shut down in April, it was more than $1 million in debt.
Some offended by Robin Thicke’s provocative lyrics
The Students’ Society of McGill University has opted not to ban the song Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke, known for its refrain, “I know you want it.” The song has long been criticized for lyrics that some say encourage and trivialize sexual assault.
There were seven votes in favour of the ban, eight opposed and 11 abstentions, according to the McGill Tribune. The motion was put forward by student Sarah Southey, who said the lyrics could trigger bad memories for assault victims when played at the campus bar. Brian Farnan, a SSMU vice-president, was opposed to the proposed censorship. “This will set a frightening precedent, when we start to ban artistic content in a student building in a university,” he said.
Several student unions in the United Kingdom, including those at the universities of London, Kingston, Edinburgh, Leeds, Derby, West Scotland and Bolton, have banned the song. Durham University’s students voted against a ban after some argued it would trivialize feminism.
From Acadia to Victoria, students snap photos of fall
Campus architecture can be brutal and grey but with autumn leaves blooming in red, orange and gold, the walk to classes in Canada these days is nothing but uplifting. This being 2013, students from Acadia U. to U. Victoria are snapping photos of fall’s glory and sharing them on Instagram with captions like, “Autumn seems to make walking to classes a little easier.” Here are a few of the best.
Male attacked at Carleton University
Ottawa Police are looking for information after at “swarming” at Carleton University. They write: “On Saturday September 28, 2013, at approximately 1:10 am, a male victim, age 22, was leaving Oliver’s pub and was exiting the Unicentre building when he was accosted by three male suspects. The victim was forced to the ground and assaulted. The suspects attempted to obtain the victim’s phone but ultimately fled with only some keys. The victim sustained minor injuries that did not require medical attention.” The suspects are described as Middle Eastern males aged 18 to 25. One was 178 cm, unshaven and wearing brown hooded sweatshirt and dark pants. A second was 173 cm and wearing a blue hooded sweat shirt, white baseball cap and jeans. A third was 183 cm and wearing a black shirt and black baseball cap.
Students discuss race-based Halloween attire
Every Halloween, student activists remind their peers that race-based costumes can offend. You may have seen the posters on campus. They say things like: “My culture is not a costume.”
The message appears to be getting through. At McMaster University, “Sexy Indian Princess” and “Eskimo Cutie” costumes were on sale at the campus bookstore last week but an editorial in The Silhouette student newspaper quickly condemned them. (For those who don’t see why dressing up this way offends, consider the amount of sexual violence Indigenous women endure.)
Another Halloween tradition students are told to stay away from is painting one’s face black. That offends folks who know the history of white racists caricaturing black Americans with black face paint at minstrel shows. After the traditional Halloween party weekend, no reports of racist costumes emerged from Canadian campuses. There was, however, a report of a Florida man dressed as Trayvon Martin. The real test is Thursday.
Some think the annual outcry goes too far. Klara Woldenga, writing in the University of Victoria’s Martlet, satirized the outrage with a group ghosts, warewolves and vampires called the Altered Living Alliance protesting stereotypes. Comments so far suggest some readers aren’t laughing.
Salaries and benefits of 60 Canadian university presidents
Students are often amazed at how much university presidents are paid and express indignation at high salaries in student newspapers. Last week, such a piece was printed in the University of Alberta’s Gateway. “With budget cuts choking the university’s finances, it’s frustrating to see public servants paid like CEOs,” wrote Cole Forster.
The obvious arguments in favour of high presidents’ salaries are that they earn them and would otherwise be lured away by competitors. It’s also worth noting theses salaries are taxed at rates as high as 50 per cent (in Nova Scotia).
For comparison’s sake, here is a list of what 60 Canadian university presidents received in pre-tax salaries and benefits in 2011, sourced from the 2013-14 Canadian Association of University Teachers Almanac of Post-secondary Education.
Western University, Amit Chakma: $591,490
University of Calgary, Elizabeth Cannon: $545,000