Attracting Maritimers to Memorial University

Cost and reputation attracting Maritimers to Memorial University. Affordability, a reputation for quality programs, and the availability of a wide range of program options are key factors in attracting Maritime students to Memorial University according to a report released today by researchers in Memorial's Faculty of Education. The study, Matriculating Eastward: Maritime Student Migration to Newfoundland and Labrador, investigated academic, social, and economic influences contributing to the enrollment of students from the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. 

The research also compared factors influencing migrant students who relocate to Newfoundland and Labrador for full-time study with distance students who maintain their residence in their home province and study at Memorial using distance education means. "While there are important differences between the decision-making of students who relocate to the province and those who study via distance, our results underscore the importance of cost, and tuition fee levels in particular". said the principal investigator for the study. "Cost is not the only factor, but it is a key factor in students’ enrollment decisions".

The study underscores Memorial University's opportunity to distinguish itself from competitor institutions in the Atlantic region and to market itself to a broad base of potential applicants based on affordability, solid reputation, and comprehensiveness. These attributes may also comprise a firm basis for attracting students from other Canadian provinces and internationally. The study was conducted in two phases including a survey of students from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island who were attending Memorial University during the fall semester. The survey was followed-up with a series of one-on-one interviews with students during the winter semester.

Women's Status in Higher Education

Equity matters. The posting below, which came to me recently via the Tomorrows-Professor mailing list, is the opening of the executive summary of the Association for the Study of Higher Education report Women's Status in Higher Education: Equity Matters by Elizabeth J. Allan. The report is available from the Wiley Online Library. Significant gains have been made in women's access to and representation in higher education. Although they are important, focus on these improvements provides only a partial picture of gender equity and inequity. 

Taken alone, enrollment data tend to eclipse other factors that shape women's experiences in higher education. For instance, aggregate enrollment data do not portray the persistent lack of gender parity among students studying engineering, computer science, and other science and technology fields, nor do they depict the quality of classroom and campus experiences. Women studying and working in postsecondary institutions continue to bump against glass ceilings and sticky floors, they experience pay disparities and the threat and reality of sexual harassment, and violence continues to interfere with workplace and living environments on campus.

Why should we care? Lack of equity in higher education can have far-reaching and negative consequences for learning environments, quality of life, and career satisfaction of both women and men studying and working in academic institutions across the country. This monograph foregrounds gains made and shared challenges women face while also acknowledging how race, social class, and other aspects of identity intersect with sex and gender and contribute to shaping one's professional status in profound ways. Literature related to women's access and representation in higher education, experiences of campus climate, and predominant strategies employed to enhance gender equity in U.S. higher education are reviewed.

Growing Administration Costs

Growing administration costs and tuition fees. From the College Guide and Rankings edition of the Washington Monthly. No statistic about higher education commands more attention, and anxiety among members of the public than the rising price of admission. Since 1980, inflation-adjusted tuition at public universities has tripled, at private universities it has more than doubled. Compared to all other goods and services in the American economy, including medical care, only "cigarettes and tobacco products" have seen prices rise faster than the cost of going to college. And for all that, parents who sign away ever-larger tuition checks can be forgiven for doubting whether universities are spending those additional funds in ways that make their kids educations better to say nothing of three times better.

Between 1975 and 2005, total spending by American higher educational institutions, stated in constant dollars, tripled, to more than $325 billion per year. Over the same period, the faculty-to-student ratio has remained fairly constant, at approximately fifteen or sixteen students per instructor. One thing that has changed, dramatically, is the administrator-per-student ratio. In 1975, colleges employed one administrator for every eighty-four students and one professional staffer admissions officers, information technology specialists, and the like for every fifty students. By 2005, the administrator-to-student ratio had dropped to one administrator for every sixty-eight students while the ratio of professional staffers had dropped to one for every twenty-one students.

Apparently, as colleges and universities have had more money to spend, they have not chosen to spend it on expanding their instructional resources that is, on paying faculty. They have chosen, instead, to enhance their administrative and staff resources. A comprehensive study published by the Delta Cost Project in 2010 reported that between 1998 and 2008, America's private colleges increased spending on instruction by 22 percent while increasing spending on administration and staff support by 36 percent. Parents who wonder why college tuition is so high and why it increases so much each year may be less than pleased to learn that their sons and daughters will have an opportunity to interact with more administrators and staffers but not more professors. Well, you can't have everything.

A Call to Debate Muskrat Falls

Last week on CBC's On Point program, I challenged representatives from the other political parties on the need to have a proper debate about the Muskrat Falls project. The full program is available online here. The segment I appear in starts about 8 min into the program. As I mentioned in the show, government's decision on the Muskrat Falls Project is probably the most important one to be made by our provincial government in my lifetime. I can't think of an exception. The implications for the cost of power, for provincial spending, and increasing the size of the provincial debt will impact Newfoundlanders and Labradorians for generations. Instead of debating Muskrat Falls with all of the necessary information, our government appears to be intent on barreling ahead and making a decision with piecemeal information in hand.

Premier Dunderdale has her foot on the accelerator and she has indicated that there will be no slowing down, no matter how concerned anyone is about how fast she is driving her agenda on Muskrat Falls. The thing is, Premier Dunderdale and her government know they have a big problem on their hands. The problem is that the more we learn about the Muskrat Falls project, the more it is studied, the more is scrutinized, the more it appears that the plan for the Muskrat Falls project is fraught with very high risks, that alternatives have not been properly examined, and that more and more citizens are becoming aware of these problems. Last summer, Muskrat Falls failed a joint federal/provincial environmental review.

More recently, government has rejected a request from the Public Utilities Board for the additional time needed to conduct a thorough review of the project. Moreover, with each passing week there are more and more individuals raising questions and expressing reservations about Muskrat. My colleagues and I in the provincial NDP Caucus are calling for a Special Session of the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly to ensure a full review and debate of the Muskrat Falls project. Special Sessions of the Legislature were called to change the Fishery Products International Limited Act and to debate the Voisey's Bay Agreement. We need to have a Special Session of the House of Assembly to ensure that the project is economically viable, environmentally sustainable, and to the benefit of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Support for Teachers

For Immediate Release. MHA, St. John's North  noted the annual arrival of Education Week with congratulations for the province's teachers, staff and students and a demand for government to make our students' school experiences even better. "I am delighted that the Minister will be at a St. John's school this morning to launch a week dedicated to celebrating education, particularly as the theme this year is tech knowledge-tech savoir. Technology is certainly an increasingly vital part of every classroom, and of every student's life.

The MHA had some words of advice for the Minister. "It's important to keep in mind that education of children does not happen in a vacuum. I think there are no better teachers anywhere than in our province, but I still hear from them that they feel a lack of support from government. I urge the government to look closely at the Newfoundland-Labrador Teachers Association's pre-budget submission. The NLTA represents the people on the front lines of education" he said. Our schools need more teachers, along with the student assistants and other professionals who deliver student support services and all those people need ongoing training and professional development in this rapidly-changing world.
"There are still critical areas needing attention, and we must allocate fiscal resources so we can hire teachers to address those needs. Finally, in a week time, celebrating technology in education, we have to pay more than lip service to the need for teacher professional development and inservice on integrating technology into teaching and learning. All the technological advancements in the world will not help our students if teachers are not fully prepared to help them learn".

Time to Make Changes in Education

My letter below was published in The Telegram on June 14. The end of the school year is an opportune time to reflect on how to best improve the quality of public education in Newfoundland and Labrador. Now more than ever, our children deserve an education system that does not leave a single child behind. Considering our relatively small population and our significant bounty of available natural resources, we can create the best education system in Canada, one that can be held up as an exemplar for the rest of the world. We have excellent teachers and excellent schools, and we have an excellent opportunity to build on our recent successes and create long-term prosperity. It’s time to provide a school environment that will enable our students and teachers to achieve even greater heights of success.

Kindergarten improvements. Full-day kindergarten programs are an excellent place to begin a new round of school reform. While many forward-thinking jurisdictions are introducing full-day kindergarten, our government continues to dismiss its benefits. In addition to its long-term educational benefits, including improved academic skills, full-day kindergarten would be a welcome reprieve for working families contending with the crushing cost of childcare and the disruption to the regular working day. While government continues to question the cost, children and parents are paying the price.

Flawed and outdated formula. Our schools continue to struggle with an outdated and flawed teacher allocation model. While the model places government’s education spending in the best possible light, it does not allow for the real teacher needs for French language education, special needs programming, senior high school courses and small rural schools. The formula fails to recognize the diverse needs of our various school communities. The problem is evident to teachers and parents. An independent review of the process of providing sufficient teacher resources is long overdue.

Time for innovation. Despite the efforts of excellent teachers and schools, government has not shown suitably strong leadership on providing schooling innovations. This is evident in the situation faced by students who, for academic, social, personal, and other reasons, do not complete the senior high school curriculum by the end of Grade 12. While many of these students demonstrate their eagerness to graduate by returning for a fourth year of senior high, about one-quarter still do not graduate. For two decades, parents, educators and community leaders have been calling for alternative schooling options that work for at-risk and gifted students alike. Instead, too many of our students, despite their promise and unique abilities, continue to fall through the cracks.

Looking at alternatives. Alternative schools are a necessary innovation that will go one additional step toward ensuring the possibility of success for students who have not thrived in the traditional school environment. It is a small investment that could provide a lifetime of return for many of our struggling students. At a time in our history when the demand for skilled labour is increasing, government should be ensuring that each and every young Newfoundlander and Labradorian has the opportunity to join in our collective prosperity, to maximize their opportunities, and to achieve meaningful employment. Not one of them should be left behind.

Words of Encouragement

This message made me smile: Hey Dale! What up! Good to see you today! (even if it was for a sad occasion... but that struggle continues). Anyhow here's the story I said I was going to email you about. So I got on the plane last week to head from Halifax to St. John's, and wound up sitting next to this dude, an older fellow, who I think was sort of a construction contractor. Anyhow, we got to talking, and I was wearing my favorite (union) jacket, so eventually we started talking about unions.

Anyway, he said that for most of his life he'd been adamantly, viciously opposed to unions and fought against them whenever possible. But recently he'd had the chance to take some courses at university, including one in the Education faculty that had touched on labour issues. He said then he'd totally changed, he now realized the important history of unions and the importance of the struggles and accomplishments labour has made, and now he's convinced that everybody needs to know about how important unions are and how everybody needs a union.

Anyway I asked him what this magic course was that had changed his mind and who taught it, and he replied "It was taught by that fellow who went and got himself elected Dale Kirby." Anyhow I thought you'd appreciate that. Seems you certainly changed some viewpoints! I didn't let on that I knew you and he proceeded to speak of how much he loved your course, said you were one of the most well prepared profs who knew his stuff that he'd ever had. Anyhow just thought I'd pass that on! With my personal thanks that I didn’t have to sit next to a union-hater for the hour and a half flight.