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Wednesday, March 15, 2000

  • Funding announcement disappoints universities
  • Fee increases limited to 2 per cent
  • The price of gas -- and learning
  • Other things happening today . . .
  • . . . and a look at tomorrow

[Front-end loader at work]
Rock comes to rest: It took nearly 100 years for a Paleozoic boulder -- which fell from the Rocky Mountains as part of the historic 1903 Frank Slide -- to reach eastern Canada and the end of its 2,500-kilometre cross-country odyssey. In a nutshell, that's the story, and that's how UW came to be the end of the road for what may be the world's most traveled, rock-from-a-rockslide rock. The Frank Slide boulder currently rests in the Peter Russell Rock Garden north of the Biology buildings. Today's Gazette has the full story.

Funding announcement disappoints universities

The Ontario government yesterday announced the level of its grants for post-secondary education for the coming year. Some reports say grants will go up by 3 per cent, but in fact institutions are expecting to receive much less than that.

And tuition fee increases are to be limited to 2 per cent annually for five years, so that universities lose the one independent source of income that has been available.

Dianne Cunningham, minister of training, colleges and universities, said Ontario was providing funding "so that colleges and universities can provide more student spaces and improve the quality of programs". For the first time, she added, a portion of the operating grants for both colleges and universities will be distributed based on performance. "By linking funding to performance, we are fulfilling our commitment to reward schools that do the best job of preparing students to succeed after graduation," said Cunningham. "We also want to ensure that colleges and universities are accountable to students and taxpayers."

University operating grants will go up by $52 million to almost $1.7 billion. Of this amount, $16.5 million will be tied to performance based on three indicators: graduation rates, and graduate employment rates after six months and two years. "Ontario and Alberta are the only two provinces to introduce performance-based funding to the postsecondary education sector," Cunningham's announcement said.

University leaders are not happy, noting that the government has sentenced them to five years of meagre budget increases. The Council of Ontario Universities is "disappointed" in the funding levels for the coming year; the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations says the announcement is "appalling".

UW provost Jim Kalbfleisch said this morning that some of the funding announced yesterday had already been provided to pay for Access to Opportunities enrolment increases and other programs, and some of it will be available only if enrolment swells further this fall. Since UW was several hundred students over its admissions target in 1999, more growth in September 2000 doesn't seem likely.

The real grant increase for UW this year could work out to 1 per cent or less, the provost said. (The year-to-year change in the consumer price index, as of February 2000, was 2.7 per cent.)

Fee increases limited to 2 per cent

Media reports

  • Toronto Star
  • London Free Press
  • The minister announced that, beginning in the 2000-01 academic year, colleges and universities will be allowed to raise tuition fees for most programs a maximum of two per cent per year for five years. "By setting out a long-term tuition strategy, we are giving students and parents the ability to better plan and prepare for the cost of a postsecondary education," said Cunningham. "Students will continue to pay approximately 35 per cent of the cost of their education, which we believe is reasonable and affordable."

    Institutions are to continue to set aside 30 per cent of the annual increase in tuition fee revenues for student assistance. The remaining 70 per cent "is to be invested to improve the quality of students' programs".

    The limit of 2 per cent per year in tuition fee increases applies to "regulated" programs, including non-professional undergraduate studies. At UW the only "deregulated" programs -- in which institutions can set their own fees -- are engineering, optometry and computer science.

    Cunningham also announced some changes to student financial assistance yesterday:

    Through the Ontario Student Opportunity Trust Fund, permanent trust funds with a total value of $600 million -- half of which comes directly from the Province -- are being established at colleges and universities to provide aid to students in need. These funds will provide assistance for up to 185,000 students over a ten-year period.

    Student grants, which were abolished by the former government, have been reintroduced. Under the Ontario Student Opportunity Grant Program, students repay only up to $7,000 per year in student loans, even if they have borrowed more than that amount.

    Tax credits, in cooperation with the federal government, are now available to help graduates pay the interest on their student loans.

    The first Aiming for the Top Tuition Scholarships will be given in September 2000. When the program is fully implemented, $35 million will be invested, which will help 10,000 top students in financial need to meet their postsecondary expenses.

    The price of gas -- and learning
    -- comments by Paul McKone (below), president of the staff association, in the association's newsletter

    [McKone] With recent rumours of further education budget cuts, it puzzles me as to why the top story in the news is the price of gasoline.

    I heard recently on the radio that the workers at Ford will receive something like a 13% increase in pay over the next three years. I don't object to this, because I realise how important the automobile is to North American society. It's a fundamental component of our booming economy, and necessary if we're going to be able to sustain the signs of a modern, transport-based civilisation: long-distance daily commutes, poor parking, smog, and road-rage.

    Later that same day, I heard a radio commentator remarking on the number of defaulted student loans that the government has to contend with. Students, it's reported, find that even our highly-subsidised education system is still too expensive, which is why so many of them opt to head to the US after school in order to recoup their losses. (A few of them even think about attending school in the States, until they find out what tuition costs there, in American dollars. . . .)

    The funny thing is -- the commentator pointed out -- these same students are willing to take out an equally-large car loan in order to abandon the Great White North in favour of the Land of Opportunity. It's as if a car is a good investment, worthy of a loan, and interest, and payment schedules, while education isn't.

    A car loses half of its value the moment it's driven off the lot; by the end of its lifetime it will be valuable only as scrap metal. Education is a starting point, and the more driven someone is, the more valuable that education becomes.

    Which brings me back to gas hikes and education cuts. It'll soon be time to start thinking about recommendations for next year's salaries. I know that one of the considerations will be that there may be no new money -- and perhaps even less existing money -- but I have to ask why?

    Why is it that society is happy to pick up the tab when buying a car, spring for the all-wheel-drive luxury option package -- paying the auto workers a fair wage -- but when it comes to education it's willing to accept less, acquiesce to new cuts without complaint, even encourage its leaders to slash more? Do we all just shrug and say, "That's just the way it is. Gotta have a car, but don't need no education." Who do we think is going to design, sell, and fix next year's models? Would society rather say, "I have a Lexus," than, "I have a degree?"

    Other things happening today . . .

    "Great food fast!" That's the promise of a drop-in nutrition display sponsored by UW's health services department and the Math Society, to be held today from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the third floor of the Math and Computer building. Experts will have "great tips on quick, easy, nutritious meals", and there will be a draw to win a copy of the new Looneyspoons cookbook, Crazy Plates.

    Math students who have been on exchange programs in other lands, and visiting exchange students from other universities, will talk at an exchange information session this afternoon. Information will be provided on current and proposed exchanges in the faculty of mathematics. The session runs from 3 to 4 p.m. in Math and Computer room 5158.

    This note comes from Cynthia Poremba of the Centre for Learning and Teaching Through Technology, LT3: "March will feature a series of events under the banner of 'Focus on Web Design'. Events include a three part discussion series consisting of Designing Successful Virtual Communities, (March 15), Information Interaction Design (March 22), and Navigation Systems & Website Usability (March 30). The discussion series will be held from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in Davis Centre room 1302." The events are sponsored by LT3 and WatCHI.

    The student branch of IEEE -- the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers -- will hold its student paper night starting at 6:00 in Davis Centre room 1302. Among the papers to be presented: "Digital Background Removal for Film Images", by systems design engineering student David Tunnah. The IEEE Millennium Medal will also be presented during tonight's session.

    On the lighter side . . . the "Jazz Goes to College" series at the Gradate House continues tonight with music by the Paul Mitchell Quartet. Tickets are $5; the music starts at 7:30.

    And the drama department's production "Spring Awakening" opens tonight in the Theatre of the Arts (showtime 8 p.m.) and continues Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

    Circle K and the Federation of Students food bank will be holding a food drive tomorrow through Saturday in the Great Hall of the Student Life Centre. Says Alison Gardner of Circle K: "The booth will be open from 9:3m to 5:30 each of these days. We are accepting donations of non-perishable food, as well as toiletries. The food will be going to the Feds Food Bank, with any that they can't use going to the Waterloo Regional Food Bank. Our goal is to 'get more food than we know what to do with'. We are hoping for involvement from the whole campus as well as the community."

    . . . and a look at tomorrow

    The career development seminar series continues tomorrow with a session on "Job/Work Search and Networking Strategies", at 1:30 p.m. in Needles Hall room 1020.

    The bookstore Kids Club has a special event tomorrow at 2:00, says marketing coordinator Beth Alemany: "Join us for some magnetic poetry fun, balloon animals, a poetry reading by one of our staff members, Helen, and story telling by Gwen Stubbs. Mrs. Stubbs has been a teacher-storyteller for over 10 years in the Waterloo area. She has performed at the Toronto Festival of Storytelling and the Celtic Festival in Goderich, and is a member of the Storytellers' Guild of Baden. She loves bringing traditional folktales to life for young children."

    Tomorrow evening Buzz Hargrove, president of the Canadian Auto Workers union, speaks at Wilfrid Laurier University (5:30 p.m., Peters Building room P1025). His topic: "The State of Unionism in Canada".

    A peace and conflict studies at Conrad Grebel College opens tomorrow with a keynote talk by political science professor John McGarry. He'll speak at 7 p.m. Thursday (in the Grebel great hall) on "Ethnic Conflict: At Home and Abroad".

    And here's a reminder that tomorrow brings the "barter" day (11 a.m to 3 p.m.) organized by environment and resource studies student Sarah Anderson: "There will be drop off bins set up all next week at the turnkey desk, the WPIRG office and the ES coffee shop. People can bring in any books, CD's, clothes, etc that they no longer want, and trade for someone else's unwanted stuff. People can either drop items off in the designated boxes ahead of time and take one coupon for each item, or bring items in on the day of the event. Each coupon or each item enables the person to take one thing from the table. This promotes sharing, a more affordable way of living, and reusing: all necessary parts of sustainability. It's also lots of fun and a great way to clear out your junk, and find some good stuff."

    CAR


    Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
    Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
    credmond@uwaterloo.ca | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
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