Fed Watch!

News Across The Nation: Double Cohort In Ontario, Ontario Buying Researchers, New Brunswick Boosting Scholarships, Walk To School Day THE VOICE October 2, 2002

Double Cohort in Ontario – More than Expected?

The Ontario government is re-iterating how their plan will ensure that the universities of Ontario are ready for the double cohort (see: http://www.newswire.ca/government/ontario/english/releases/September2002/27/c5505.html). For those not aware, this school year Ontario switches from a secondary school system that goes to grade 13 to one that only goes to grade 12. This means that it is possible for the students in both grades to all graduate in one year. This is part of why the Ontario Government has been so concerned with adding more physical space to the various universities and post-secondary schools around the province. In the announcement the Ontario government re-stated that there will be a place for every willing and qualified student next September.

Unfortunately, it seems that some doubt about this promise is being raised (see:http://www.nationalpost.ca/home/story.html?id={E5637C1F-AE2E-4944-944B-4A2605841D73}). Documents from the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities show that the provinces models are assuming that only 60% of the students that are supposed to graduate from grade 12 will actually do so, with the remainder requiring another year. Surveys of the students and the credits they are gathering suggest the number is more likely to be near 90%.

The 30% difference means that universities in Ontario could find themselves simply not properly equipped to teach all of the students that want to attend. This likely means that those students will either wind up not getting their post-secondary education in Ontario, or not getting it at all. Not that I’m saying the Ontario government will go back on its word about the post-secondary system being ready for every willing and qualified student – it just all comes down to what exactly is meant by “qualified”.

As I have suggested in earlier columns, it seems to be increasingly apparently that for Ernie Eves government, “qualified” has more to do with being able to afford the education, rather than being suited for it.

Ontario Buying Researchers

On the other side of the university situation we have the number of researchers that work at the universities. Studies have shown that over the next few years there will be an increasing shortage of people with advanced degrees to help forward our research and teaching needs. Ontario is getting a jump on this problem by investing 40.7 million into attracting new researchers to the University of Ottawa (see: http://www.newswire.ca/government/ontario/english/releases/September2002/24/c4163.html). This money will be used to support 41 different research projects, and as the Associate Minister of Enterprise, Opportunity, and Innovation has said, “Investing in our researchers and research infrastructure will ensure that groundbreaking work continues, and will help Ontario retain and attract the world’s top researchers and scientists. By investing in innovation, our government is creating a stronger future for Ontario.”

Once again, this seems to reflect the attitude of the Ontario government in looking for short-term fixes for longer-term problems. Rather than invest to make a limited pool of advanced researchers larger, Ontario would rather invest to make sure they simply get a larger number from that already limited pool. Hopefully some of the researchers they attract will be able to inform the government about the wisdom of economics – specifically the benefits of increasing supply rather than simply trying to outbid demand.

New Brunswick Boosting Scholarships

And in a demonstration of what I believe is the right way to go about things, the New Brunswick Government today cut the first cheque for a scholarship fund to help university students in financial need (see: http://www.gnb.ca/cnb/news/edu/2002e0943ed.htm). This is a partnership between the provincial government and the universities, which are required to raise matching funds for the scholarship endowments.

This investment, which is the first in a provincial contribution of $500,000 total, is what we really need to ensure that Canada and Canadians get the best researchers possible. When you remove monetary need from the equation, it becomes much easier for the best qualified to rise to the top, and personally, I would rather have the best doctor than the richest one.

Walk to School Day

Also in New Brunswick, Wednesday, October 2, 2002 is officially “Walk to School Day” an annual event that takes place in 20 countries to promote physical fitness, the environment, and safe pedestrian skills (see: http://www.gnb.ca/cnb/news/edu/2002e0949ed.htm).

While a worthy cause, I am rather glad this is one Athabasca University does not support. For most of us, it would be a long walk indeed.

A native Calgarian, Karl is perpetually nearing the completion of his Bachelor of Arts with a Major in Information Studies. He also works for the Computer Sciences Virtual Helpdesk for Athabasca University and plans to eventually go on to tutor and obtain his Master’s Degree.