Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy students like Christine Connell may soon be able to earn their degree at the Catholic institution in Barry’s Bay, Ont. Photo courtesy of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy

Our Lady Seat of Wisdom taking next step

By 
  • February 8, 2014

Now in its 14th year, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy is seeking to step up its academic game by becoming a degree- granting institution.

School administrators will apply this spring to the Ontario government to have the academy’s current three-year certificate program converted into a three-year bachelor of Christian humanities liberal arts degree. Students enrolled in the certificate program, which will continue to be offered, will be offered an internal credit transfer into the degree program.

“We would prefer a four-year but it seems to us that (with) the three-year degree it is very easy for us to demonstrate that we have the resources necessary to offer the degree,” said Keith Cassidy, the school’s president. “We are already offering a three-year certificate program which very closely parallels what will be the three-year degree program.”

Our Lady Seat of Wisdom is a Catholic post-secondary institution faithful to the Catholic Church and Ex Corde Ecclesiae. Located in Barry’s Bay, Ont., it seeks to form the whole person, intellectually and spiritually.

To gain degree-granting status, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom will need to show it meets specific criteria. Necessary resources include a sufficient number of facility holding doctorates, adequate space to accommodate an anticipated increase in enrolment and a suitable range of library materials to facilitate research for participatants in the new program.

While universities in Canada traditionally offer a four-year degree program, Cassidy noted that a three-year program is not unheard of. A discussion was held about two years ago regarding slashing one year off the standard undergraduate degree in Ontario.

“The three-year degree is not something that is unknown,” he said, as Australia and much of Europe already widely use the shorter degree program as their standard.

To receive degree-granting status, the academy will have to submit an application to the government and pass a two-phase evaluation process. It must first be approved by the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities before moving on to the Postsecondary Education Quality Assessment Board (PEQAB).

“The minister has complete discretion to say no and that minister need not give reasons and you cannot appeal that decision,” said Cassidy. “If the minster says yes then it goes to PEQAB who conduct a pretty extensive review of the university seeking to offer a degree.”

The entire process, which includes a physical evaluation of the school by PEQAB, takes on average one year.

Teresa O’Reilly, a 19-year-old freshman in the certificate program, said the potential of being able to transfer into a three-year degree program heavily influenced her decision to go to Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy.

“Having a three-year degree-granting status as a possibility was very attractive to me because then I could have a bachelor of arts in three years and continue in getting a teachers’ certificate in only one year, so that would be four years of school instead of five,” said O’Reilly, who hopes to become a Catholic school teacher. “I’m kind of gambling that they will be able to give it by the time I graduate ... (but) I wanted a school that would give me a good foundation for the base of my career. It doesn’t give you a job per se, but I wanted an education that would make my faith my own and I felt that Our Lady Seat of Wisdom was the best school in Canada to do that.”

In addition to giving students like O’Reilly a degree, gaining degree-granting status would also allow students to apply to the Canada Student Loans Program. Although the school boasts a tuition rate of $6,250 plus a $250 activities fee, and a very reasonable $5,000 for room and board, Cassidy said some students still struggle financially.

“Many of our students come from families which are often larger with stay-at-home moms who are raising children,” he said.

With so many benefits to students it may seem strange that the school would wait so long to apply for this higher status, but Cassidy has an explanation for that.

“There is just an enormous range of things that you have to do,” he said. “We wanted to make sure that the application we put in was as water tight as possible, that we can demonstrate that we meet all of the requirements for approval and those requirements are really quite exhaustive. So we wanted to wait until we were sure that we would have all of the things necessary to meet those rather high standards.”

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