Wearing the purple robes and matching mortarboards of Niagara University, 179 postgraduate students received master of education degrees last spring in Lewiston, N.Y. Of the graduates, 110 were Canadians who had completed as many as half of their 12 required courses in
southern Ontario communities. They are among a growing number of teachers and other professionals who are taking advantage of academic programs that U.S. universities now offer in Canada. According to John Stranges, academic vice-president at Niagara, the fact that students can attend the U.S. courses at
night or on weekends is one reason for their popularity. But critics say that some students like the programs because their admission standards are lower and they offer less rigorous courses than Canadian universities.
Niagara, in the spring of 1972, was one of the first U.S. colleges to set up a branch in Canada. And now, in Ontario alone—the largest market for U.S. extension programs—about 500 students are enrolled in courses offered by seven American universities, mainly in the field of education. Among other provinces where U.S. institutions have been increasing their presence in recent years are Alberta and British Columbia. But according to William Sayers, spokesman for the Council of Ontario Universities, the U.S. programs are often easier to complete than many Canadian degrees. Said Sayers: “Our general judgment is that the entrance requirements are lower than the equivalent in Ontario and the level of academic achievement expected of the students is not as high.” But Stranges said that Niagara’s faculty members all have doctorates from major U.S. institutions and that the university’s credentials are solid. Added Stranges: “The ministry set the criteria for operating centres in Ontario, and we met them.”
Indeed, Jay Fleischer, a university relations officer with the Ontario ministry of colleges and universities, said that U.S. institutions advertising classes offered in the province must include a statement that their programs may not be up to the standard of Ontario’s 15 universities. Declared Fleischer: “It is a private service that they are offering—and its worthiness is up to the student to determine.”
It is also an expensive alternative. Niagara’s postgraduate education degree costs $7,632 in tuition fees alone. A similar degree from the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education in Toronto costs about $2,000 for Canadians. But according to OISE registrar Patricia Buitenhuis, many teachers seeking to complete a master’s degree in education cannot meet the institute’s high admission standard—a mid-B. Central Michigan University—which offers a $4,958 master of education degree program to teachers at four Ontario community colleges—requires only a B-minus average. But Sayers said that the U.S. extension programs can offer a valuable service. He added, “Our great fear is that a person will get a graduate degree under these conditions that might not stand for the same volume of work and level of achievement—and then we have a kind of debased currency.” Clearly, the standard must be based on the solid value of education.
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