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Research Chair for E-Business Created

The Government of Canada is putting $700,000 into creating a research chair ( for e-business activities. While I’m normally in favour of more money going toward education, even if it is on the research side of things, this one strikes me as not necessarily the best move.

The reason is simple, the topic doesn’t have a lot of depth remaining to be explored. E-business really isn’t all that new after all, it’s just a translation of your standard mail-order to over the internet. After all, Sears has been doing mail order since 1886. Unfortunately, it seems that for a large number of people sticking the words “by the internet” on to something makes it a whole new ball-game for them. What people are looking for is fast, good service at a decent price, with minimal hassles for returns and exchanges, and maybe with a small community behind it to help a person decide. That hasn’t changed, even though we are using the somehow mystifying internet to do it now.

Putting $700,000 toward finding out more about e-business seems to me a waste of public time and money. Let private enterprise take the lead on it.

On the bright side, however, some of the money will be used to help pay for graduate studies along those lines, so all you MBA’s out there who are interested in research, this might be your golden opportunity. Who knows, maybe you could just go research how Sears does things by ordering a bunch from them and get paid for it. That’d be sweet.

Education Matters

Statistics Canada is starting up a new publication titled “Education Matters”, which will be released every two months. The first issue is out now and is available for free ( on the web. For post-secondary news in this issue, they’ve decided to more or less re-run something that they’ve run before — that is their study on how distance affects people ( wanting to take post-secondary education.

I’ve taken a look at this research before and it’s nothing terribly surprising. Basically, the farther away you are from a university or college, the more important a wealthy family becomes to determining whether you will attend or not. Since colleges are much more common than universities, the research goes on to show that people in rural areas are much more likely to attend a college.

All fairly basic stuff, but it serves to underline a point I keep making – building bigger buildings at the university will not have as significant effect on access as creating better education opportunities for rural students. I point this out again because once again the Province of Alberta is hyping their capital expenditure plan and pointing out how they will be spending 416 million on building or renovating buildings at universities and colleges across Alberta.

Meanwhile, as it’s a distance education institution, Athabasca University isn’t even on the list for places that will be seeing this money. So our tuition continues to climb at the maximum allowed year after year, even though with an increase in operating grants AU could increase access and lower tuition at the same time. This is such a win-win situation for the government I really can’t understand why they haven’t done it. Maybe you can see something I’m missing. If so, please let me know, I’d love to hear it.

Student Financing

Statistics Canada also released its National Graduates Survey: Student Debt ( report where it found that nearly half of all graduates (who didn’t go on to further studies) had student debt, averaging around $19,000.

Of course, observant readers will note that this completely misses those students who didn’t graduate because they couldn’t afford to, or those students that did graduate but then went on to further studies – possibly racking up even more debt in the process.

In fact, these two significant omissions persist throughout the survey. Only 24% of those bachelor students who graduated with debt reported problems with repaying it. As to those students who didn’t graduate but have debt? We have no numbers.

It would be interesting to see a study with these omissions corrected, so that we could get a true picture of how much damage excessive tuitions and high debt-loads are really causing.

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.

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