(Files by Brendan Pawliw-MyPGNow)
Life as we know it isn’t anywhere close to getting back to normal due to COVID-19 and for post secondary students in the north, the adjustment to a mostly online-based class structure is being accompanied by a familiar problem.
Students at UNBC and CNC are still paying full-priced tuition despite not getting the full on-campus experience.
Amarilys Ducharme is in her fourth-year enrolled in the Bachelor of Arts program with a focus in Indigenous Studies who is displeased with the direction that’s being taken by UNBC administration.
“I’m paying just as much as I did last year for classes that I am going to be taking in my living room where I am not going to be able to see my instructor, where I am not going to collaborate with my peers. It’s just ridiculous.”
“What does it mean to have a meaningful format when I have had classes where we have done group circles and people cry in our classes and people have that connection with each other and be in the presence of elders. It doesn’t parallel (the online classes) to the kind of academic experience I am going to receive compared to what I am paying for.”
Ducharme pursued the matter of tuition costs with the university employees ahead of the academic year and was less than satisfied with the feedback she received in return.
“The answer that I got is UNBC will not be reducing tuition because the courses are still running and have been redesigned to ensure the content and assessment is meaningful in an online format.”
“In the past, there have been many online classes at UNBC and they often have lower tuition because it’s online, so we’re all those classes that were offered previously less meaningful? It completely disregards the impact a teacher has on a student’s life.”
The university shot down this claim stating there has never been a tuition differential based on how a course is delivered.
UNBC further stated they have always charged the same amount per credit hour for courses offered online or in person.
UNBC students have been seemingly put through the wringer for the last two years, first dealing with a labour squabble that disrupted classes along with the early days of the pandemic.
Ducharme states the school has given little in return for those disruptions.
“We are trying to graduate and manage our classloads and it feels like we’re getting bled out. Somebody should be regulating universities a little bit more so they don’t just use us students as cash cows because they are not able to administer programs and service properly.”
“They are just kind of telling us they are not compassionate about our situation and the situation of the world and what they care about is ensuring that they receive monetary compensation for the meager service that they serve us with.”
Interim President Dr. Geoff Payne defended the school’s position on full tuition fees, stating a decrease was on the table but could not be carried out.
“We looked at our budget and tuition fees in one aspect of our budget when we presented that to the board of governors and the decision was made to keep our 2% tuition increase as part of our budget.”
Payne added that while he understands the frustrations shown by students, he noted additional costs needed to be incurred in order to move to an online-only model.
“There is more funding that is required to move into the online, there is more IT equipment, more technical experience to support it. This year for the fall, we hired more instructional designers for teaching, learning, and technology to support the faculty.”
“There is more to it than just the instruction itself, I can say at the end of the day, the credentials that the students do get from UNBC still hold the same value.”
Another major issue that awaits students upon completion, is job placement as most workplaces are facing challenges associated with the pandemic, such as costs and hiring.
Payne noted the university is doing everything it can to move on their graduates to the next level.
“The services with the job placements, work with the community, not just industry but working with outside of the university community in terms of where our students are going we continue to do that.”