All Posts Tagged With: "Access"
An interview with Michael DeGagne
Michael DeGagne, an Aboriginal Canadian, will become president of Nipissing University in January. The school is located in North Bay, the self-proclaimed Gateway to Northern Ontario, a region of vast mineral wealth that is also home to deep Aboriginal poverty. That poverty is concentrated in places like Attawapiskat, the James Bay reservation made famous by Chief Theresa Spence, who is now on the 18th day of a hunger strike—a protest she says will end only with a visit from Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
DeGagne, who once worked for the federal government and was executive director of the Aboriginal Healing Foundation, has been watching closely. He spoke to Maclean’s On Campus about his plans for expanding access to education and offered his thoughts on the movement that made Chief Spence front-page news.
How did your work with the Healing Foundation prepare you for Nipissing?
The healing foundation had the good fortune to have a lot of resources to provide mental health healing supports to Aboriginal communities. Programs were directed to people who had been through the Indian residential schools, so we spent a lot of time in consultations asking survivors what they wanted, did a lot of professional development, community development and human resource development, so I think a lot of that work will lend itself to my work at Nipissing.
Before judging, please consider what professors actually do
A lot is being written about universities these days and much of it paints a rather troubling picture. Some of the more popular arguments were put forward by Margaret Wente—who seems to write the same column about post-secondary education every few months—this weekend: the system is in crisis, it doesn’t sufficiently prepare students for the job market, the quality of teaching has continuously declined, and overpaid, lazy professors are sitting in their ivory towers denying that anything is wrong.
Universities are facing real and significant challenges, and I agree that anyone who thinks the only problem is underfunding is deluding themselves (that said, let’s not dismiss funding as an issue: across Canada, government funding as a proportion of university revenues has gone from 80.9 per cent in 1989 to 58.3 per cent in 2009. In Ontario, it is down 49.5 per cent! This trend poses myriad issues, including shifting the funding burden to students and creating incentives for universities to boost funding by adding more students.)
Province increases university funding despite deficit
Newfoundland and Labrador will soon take the crown as the cheapest place to study, despite a deficit budget that includes job cuts and that will cause provincial net debt to rise by $1-billion to $8.5-billion by March 2013.
Tuesday’s budget includes $44 million for Memorial University and College of the North Atlantic to prevent them from raising tuition fees, which averaged $2,649 in the fall of 2011.
The province will soon have the lowest fees in Canada. Nationwide, university fees averaged $5,366 in 2011, according to Statistics Canada.
As lectures grow, special classes emerge for the academically-inclined
From the 21st Maclean’s University Rankings—on newsstands now.
It’s the third week of her university career and Maya Helferty, a first-year sociology (soon to be philosophy) major at the University of Guelph, admits that she’s already skipping her women’s studies and sociology classes. “There’s no point to those lectures,” says the Canadian who went to high school in Pennsylvania. “We just go over the same material that’s in the readings.”
Don’t assume she’s a bad student. She excelled at high school, in everything from Greek mythology to advanced calculus. Helferty is skipping lectures precisely because she is a good student. She’s read the material. She doesn’t need to hear it again. Being filled with facts is not why she came to university. She came to ask questions, discuss ideas and be inspired.
Fees are up 4.3 per cent this fall: Statistics Canada
There tends to be a lot of talk this time of year about how high tuition fees have become. This year, the debate has been especially loud, because it is an election issue in more than one province.
And that was before Statistics Canada revealed today that tuition is up 4.3 per cent over last year to an average of $5,366 for undergraduates. Inflation is estimated at 2.7 per cent, which means tuition costs are growing faster than most prices.
The obvious problem with high fees is that no one likes to pay them. And when the issue is raised by politicians, it’s usually raised in terms of access: the economically disadvantaged won’t or can’t seek higher education if the price tag is too high. Research has suggested that children from lower-income families are less likely to go to university than richer students, but why that’s the case is a complex mix of social and economic factors, actual cost being just one, according to this study by Statistics Canada. As conservative commentators have noted, even now where tuition is highest, participation rates remain relatively high even among low-income students.
New programs for medical and law students are about getting professionals where they’re needed, not student aid
This summer, Dawson City, the second largest community in the Yukon, lost half its doctors when one of them decided to take a year-long sabbatical. The territorial government is currently building a hospital in the town, since the 1960s anyone who has to be held overnight for medical treatment has to be airlifted to Whitehorse, but many in the community question who’s actually going to work there.
Whitehorse, home to the territory’s only hospital, is facing a severe and growing doctor shortage and specialists only pass through a few times a year. Serious cases requiring emergency specialist care must be sent south, usually to Vancouver.
Throughout Northern Canada the story is the same: shortages of doctors and other professionals, like lawyers.
Certainly, there is a shortage of doctors throughout much of the country but not having a family doctor is one thing when there are hospitals and walk-in clinics nearby; it’s a whole different story when the nearest doctor–of any sort–is a several hundred kilometre flight away.
This isn’t about student aid, it’s about providing incentives to encourage grads to work in places that need their skills.
Some have criticized these programs on the basis that they put pressure on poorer students to work in the North, rather than pursue specialties. While I understand that some people have a sort of moral objection to student debt, if there are any graduates who can handle debt it’s medical specialists who will graduate to high salaries.
Medical students, just by the virtue of being medical students, have access to large loans and lines of credit. Banks are willing to lend because medical students are essentially guaranteed high salaries on graduation.
This new program doesn’t pressure students from poorer backgrounds into choosing the North over a specialty, it gives students a choice between paying off their debt by pursuing higher paying positions or working off their debt by practicing in areas where there is a great need.
If we want to talk about inequality, let’s talk about the fact that the far majority of medical students come from well-off backgrounds. At the Université de Montréal a full 45 per cent of medical students have backgrounds in the richest 20 per cent of the population, only five per cent come from poor backgrounds. The problem isn’t how medical students from poor backgrounds choose to pay off their debts, it’s about getting them in to medical school in the first place.
Or we can talk about the fact that Northern Canadians–a large percentage of whom are Aboriginal–are denied essential government services provided to southerners because few people want to provide them.
Let’s remember that medical education, while it may be expensive, is still funded by society, there’s nothing wrong with the state encouraging doctors to do the right thing and provide medical care to Canadians whose access to proper treatment is severely limited.
Other provinces with large northern regions would be wise to imitate these programs and the federal government should do the same for the territories.
Post-grad obligations for medical students could create a two-tiered system
Is free education worth the years of service students are obliged to pay back? In the past couple of months, two grant programs have emerged in Manitoba with the aim of delivering access to key services in otherwise under-serviced parts of the province.
Both medical students and law students will now be able to apply for grants that will pay for the majority of their education. In return, though, they must spend their first years as doctors or lawyers in remote areas of the province, where access to legal and medical services is hard to attain.
While the government’s and the universities’ hearts are in the right place for wanting to help residents with accessibility issues while helping students graduate debt-free, I have to wonder if the deal will seem worthwhile once students are graduated and working through their contracts. How many students will have to give up great opportunities elsewhere to fulfill their educational obligations?
A program like this can very easily make it more difficult for low-income students to become big players in their field.
For example, if a student takes advantage of Manitoba’s medical grant program to its full extent, they will have paid for a huge portion of their education, but owe two-and-a-half years of service as soon as they finish their residency.
A student who finishes their undergraduate degree at the age of 22, finishes medical school at 26, could very well be over 30 before they finish their residency and begin paying back their time to the province.
A kid with a dream of becoming a thoracic surgeon — a highly-competitive position — will end up taking a break of nearly three years at the exact moment they are eligible to begin applying for jobs in their field. Instead, they’ll spend that time in the outback practicing family medicine. Meanwhile, their peers from wealthier backgrounds who did not require the government’s help to go through school will leapfrog into those jobs.
Family medicine changes lives. It provides extraordinarily valuable services to everyday people. There is also a significant doctor shortage in rural areas and that’s a problem that needs to be addressed. But programs like this, if not properly monitored, could end up creating a two-tiered healthcare system, one where wealthy students get the choice jobs, and poorer students make do with what’s left after their service has been repaid.
New documents suggest feds downplayed risks and hired PR firm for damage control
Internal documents suggest the Harper government downplayed health risks and hired a PR firm for damage control after halting plans for new schools on native reserves.
The papers discuss the hiring of Hill & Knowlton to help the government handle what one official described as “not a good story.”
The government stopped plans in 2007 for new schools and major renovations that weren’t considered health and safety priorities.
But internal documents obtained by the NDP suggest some of those projects were put off despite health and safety issues flagged by Indian Affairs.
New Democrat MP Charlie Angus says the government paid spin doctors while neglecting urgent education needs.
The Conservatives have announced $50 million for five new schools and seven renovation projects, but critics say much more is needed to lower native dropout rates.
- The Canadian Press
Oxford goes searching for academic potential—outside of private schools
After years of criticism that Oxford University favoured students from upper-class private school backgrounds, the university is implementing changes with the hope of better balancing the socio-economic backgrounds of students that the famed institution recruited.
The university is using postal codes, academic achievement, and the high school to find students who have high academic potential but would not traditionally get an interview at Oxford. These students are granted the opportunity to interview for admission. They are not necessarily granted admission.
Certain elements of British society are very upset by the change and are labeling it “social engineering” and an attack on the middle class.
It’s horrible: how dare universities go in search of academic talent who didn’t have a rich daddy to pay for private school?
Oxford has been forced to change their admission procedures across the board as record numbers of students are applying with “straight A” marks. (Students at private schools were three times more likely than average to “achieve” straight A marks)
With grade inflation rampant and elite British universities not inflating their enrolment to match, tensions are rising as students with straight As are being rejected by elite universities.
The current outrage over Oxford’s outreach efforts are merely an extension of this fight. Private schools are increasingly concerned with changes to admission formulas which favour students in public schools and they’re not afraid to state so.
One Michigan lawmaker is proposing that the state’s public universities be required to guarantee admission for student in the top 10 percent of their graduating high school class. The lawmaker hopes the proposal will increase access for potential students in rural and urban (inner-city) areas of Michigan.
One Michigan lawmaker is proposing that the state’s public universities be required to guarantee admission for student in the top 10 percent of their graduating high school class.
The lawmaker hopes the proposal will increase access for potential students in rural and urban (inner-city) areas of Michigan.