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Most classes will be online and no one is sure how many students will be registered when B.C. post-secondary institutions go back to school in September, but administrators and student associations say they are planning to provide as much support as possible.
“We’re working really hard to ensure that we are creating a great university experience both academically and socially,” said Cole Evans, president of the University of B.C.’s Alma Mater Society.
“We’re doing whatever we can to support students. We know there is a lot of unknown still.”
What is clear is that schools such as UBC, Simon Fraser University and Thompson Rivers University will be offering the bulk of their instruction online.
Smaller classes, especially those that require hands-on laboratory work, will still take place, while observing physical distancing rules.
Thompson Rivers may have a higher percentage of its students on campus compared to UBC and SFU as it has a number of industrial trades programs. Trades classes that require in-person instruction will still take place, where appropriate, Matt Milovick, vice-president of finance and administration, said in an email.
“In such situations, on-campus learning will be conducted in accordance with safety guidelines and physical distancing requirements,” he said.
Evans said students are still waiting to hear more details on how classes will take place.
“The university has taken recommendations from the province as far as how to proceed. I think it’s important that they’ve prioritized school safety.”
Because universities are planning to deliver as close to the normal course load as possible, they are also moving ahead with tuition increases for 2020-21.
Evans is concerned about how close these classes will really be to normal, though. Most students will be in the Pacific time zone, but what about those who are studying from abroad.
“All our students need to be receiving value for the tuition and fees that they are paying,” he said.
SFU, UBC and Thompson Rivers are raising tuition two per cent for domestic students. Thompson Rivers is hiking tuition three per cent for international students, while SFU and UBC are raising international tuition four per cent.
UBC has created additional funding for students who are struggling financially because of the pandemic, spokesperson Matt Ramsey said.
With the agreement of participating Lower Mainland post-secondary institutions, including UBC and SFU, the popular UPass student transit pass program has been suspended by TransLink and the schools won’t be collecting fees for the passes until the program is restored.
Many outside-the-classroom details remain unclear. SFU has confirmed they are suspending fees normally charged for students who would have to use a physical laboratory as part of their coursework, or for the university’s recreation facilities.
The AMS is examining its fee structure, Evans said.
“We’re committed to keeping things affordable for students both at the AMS and in our advocacy to the university,” he said.
How sports and clubs may be able to operate is a work in progress. Plans will be revealed over the next few months, Ramsey said.
“The details will come as we’re able to provide them,” he said.
Students will be able to live in residence in some circumstances, but Evans said many of the students he has heard from would like to know more.
“A lot of our advocacy is that the university communicate their plans clearly and as soon as possible,” he said.
Evans said he is pleased with the leadership at the Point Grey campus. How students are going to be supported by the university remains the student union’s biggest focus.
“It’s multifaceted,” he said. “It’s about supporting students financially, making sure there’s robust financial aid packages. Making sure students are supported emotionally, making sure the university is compassionate and lenient.”
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