Innovative Approach Benefits Students
The provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador has announced (http://www.gov.nf.ca/releases/2003/youth/0811n02.htm) that over 1600 students have found summer employment under their Student Work and Services Program. While many provinces subsidize some sort of summer employment program for students, the approach of Newfoundland and Labrador is particularly interesting.
Most employment programs work by basically providing some sort of support to employers to hire summer students (which may include wage subsidies), but the Newfoundland and Labrador approach also provides tuition vouchers for students who take on work projects for non-profit community organizations. Working eight weeks will gain a student a $50/week stipend and a $1400 tuition voucher. This strikes me as an all around winning situation. The students gain by having a non-taxable tuition voucher, the community gains by getting people to help with community projects over the summer, and the government gains by being able to do all of the above, plus encourage their youth to go on to post-secondary education.
It is these kind of innovative approaches that other provinces and institutions need to try to emulate. The reasoning that things just are not done a certain way is no excuse when we are dealing with difficult problems. Unique situations, such as funding a national distance education university or encouraging students to go to post-secondary in an area where many normally do not, require innovative solutions. It would be nice to actually see some evidence of innovation at Athabasca University.
Research Grants for the Fine Arts
The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada is announcing grants (http://www.sshrc.ca/web/apply/program_descriptions/fine_arts_e.asp) to be delivered to researchers and creators of fine arts from post-secondary institutions. The research grants can be up to $100,000 per year, with an upper limit of $250,000 over three years. This includes artistic practice. Athabasca University has several professors and tutors who are engaged in artistic creations, from writing books and stories to movies and screenplays. This would be a great way for AU to work on subsidizing their wages.
However, the innovation doesn’t have to stop there. Since the SSHRC seems to have a reasonable amount of money at its disposal, why not make proposals to it for further grants that Athabasca University would have an excellent chance of obtaining – such as research into teaching humanities remotely. This would be something almost designed for AU’s MDE program to work on. It may not be customary for a university to provide suggestions to a grant delivering body, but then again, it is not customary for a university to be delivering full degrees via distance education. After all, the worst they can do is say no.
1 Billion Dollars for Climate Change
The Prime Minister of Canada has made remarks on the occasion of Ottawa earmarking (http://www.pm.gc.ca/default.asp?Language=E&page=newsroom&sub=speeches&doc=climatechangeannouncement.20030812_e.htm) a billion dollars for implementing the Canadian Climate Change Program. That is a lot of money to devote to this problem, but given the continual expense of the trend in warming we are experiencing, it may be a smarter investment for our money than a lot of other things.
As fires rage through Alberta and lightning takes out a large electricity grid in Ontario, more and more people are starting to think that something has to be done about the weather. There are some arguments that perhaps the money could be better spent elsewhere as we still do not know for sure whether this climate change is a long-term trend or exactly how much effect man is having (and can have) on the weather patterns, but given the risks of doing nothing, I think we are making the right choice.
Some of this billion dollar expenditure will likely be going into providing grants to make homes more energy efficient (http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/houses-maisons/english/homeowners/grant/eligibility.cfm?PrintView=N&Text=N). An interesting idea that comes from that is, that it may be possible for other larger institutions to some how tap into this money, say by approaching the government with proposals for cost sharing on making the institutional buildings more energy efficient as well – thus costing less to maintain over the longer term.
After all, a billion dollars is a lot of money, and the more money that is available, the easier it is to get some of it passed over to you.
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.