News for the unnewsed

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Credit card protest continues

A University of Calgary undergraduate paid his $1,037 tuition with coins Monday, in protest of the U of C's decision to stop taking credit card payments.

Political science student Teale Phelps Bondaroff carried more than 90 kilograms of rolled nickels and dimes in a wheelbarrow to the registrar's office. He explained that the government and the U of C are "nickel-and-diming" students through high tuition and refusing to take payments by credit card.

The University had been discussing ending credit card payment since 2003, citing almost $1 million in processing fees that could be spent on student services. The University posted its decision on the enrolment services website March 18 before making a public announcement. Many students found out through friends and Facebook before hearing officially from the University.

Both the Students' Union and the student body were dismayed with the lack of communication, the short amount of time before the July 1 policy change date and the credit card ban itself.

About 18,000 U of C students use credit cards to pay tuition because of unpredictable student loans or for the convenience.

U of C, the University of Alberta and the University of British Columbia were some of the few universities in Canada that allowed payment by credit card. All three institutions will no longer accept credit cards to avoid high operating costs. The U of C will allocate the money saved to scholarships.

Statistics Canada estimated in 2006 that tuition in Alberta has almost quadrupled since 1990. In the next academic year, U of C tuition will go up another 4.6 per cent or about $200 per student.

Earthquake in China wreaks havoc

Nearly 15,000 people are dead after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit the Sichuan province in China on Monday.

The earthquake took place around 2:28 p.m. local time, when schools and businesses were full. Telephone poles were destroyed and roadsides were blocked, hampering military aid and making it difficult to determine the extent of casualties and injuries.

The Sichuan province is located in southeast China, about 1,500 kilometres from Beijing. At the epicentre of the quake is the small city of Wenchuan with a population of 110,000. Sparsely populated areas like Wenchuan were the worst affected.

Chengdu's Huaxi Hospital, one of the largest in western China, evacuated the upper floors and moved patients outside after the quake hit the Chengdu area. Two chemical plants were destroyed and spilled 80 tons of toxic ammonia and 6,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes. Two large schools, each with a population of about 1,000, collapsed in the earthquake. Rescuers are still searching for survivors.

The aftermath of the earthquake has left traffic jams, a lack of running water, power outages and landslides. The earthquake was felt as far away as Pakistan and Vietnam.

Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao flew to Chengdu on Tuesday to oversee rescue efforts. So far 50,000 soldiers have been deployed for search and rescue.

Universities battle doctor shortage

A concept that was only seen in the U.S. and Canadian military is now being considered as part of a solution to Canada's health care shortages.

Physician assistants are being introduced in Canada to combat waiting lists and staff shortages. Physician assistants are as trained as a senior resident and are able to handle situations in general and specialized practice including putting on casts, taking histories and filling out patient charts.

In the fall, McMaster University and the University of Manitoba will begin Canada's first non-military physician assistant training programs. Manitoba has been using physician assistants from the military and some trained in the U.S. since 2002.

The program will hopefully cut wait times countrywide. In Ontario, physician assistants reduced wait times by as much as one-third.