International May intake students can breathe a sigh of relief, now that the government has exempted them from travel restrictions (albeit this exemption applies to only those students who have an approved study permit). But the news doesn’t end here. The fact is that even if they decide to complete up to 50% of their program online from home, their post graduate work permit will not be affected. With the pandemic situation not showing signs of slowing down, the universities are doing their best to accommodate and support the incoming and returning residents on their on-campus housing. “We’ve been assisting students who are returning and giving them the public health directives to self-isolate,” a University of Waterloo spokesperson told The PIE. University of Victoria is going so far as to offer private rooms with specially designated bathroom facilities to self-isolating students, all the while ensuring that the students are stocked with masks and have access to regular meals. Some schools, however, have asked residents to look for alternative accommodation or are relocating the students to enforce social distancing measures in the college housing facilities.
By the end of last week, many Canadian universities had already announced emergency bursaries & funding to students, but yet more schools are now confirming such measures on their social media handles. Moreover, the government is also actively trying to support the student communities through this very tough time. It is hoped that changes in the Summer Jobs Program will create about 70,000 new jobs, which will be assisted by up to 100% wage subsidy. Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA), though lauding the initiative, has urged the government to stretch out the net even further. Nevertheless, many international students have testified to benefitting from another program, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). Recently, the Student Work Placement Program (SWPP) was also ramped up to rescue. Now it not only offers wage subsidies to employers, but also allows universities to hire post-secondary students under the program. (**New updates were announced by the government on 22nd April 2020. Please refer to the updates at the end of this article)
On the academic front, it initially looked like co-op experience for students would be hit hard, as all the courses were moved online. However, innovators in Canada found a way around it. Riipen is a platform which enables real company projects to be embedded into the curriculum, effectually bringing online co-op work experience to students. As if this was not already a great news, Riipen is also offering free access to its portal for spring and summer 2020 classes! As far as exams are concerned, various alternatives to in-class exams are doing rounds. Some schools are using AI proctoring tools such as ProctorU, TopHat, and Proctortrack, while University of Lethbridge is offering the students a choice to keep their final grades or apply for another credit/non-credit designation to replace the transcript grade. Realizing to the need to inform the students about career-focused programs and support services during these times of uncertainty, Durham College is organizing a virtual event ‘DC Open House’ next week. Likewise, the Annual Research and Innovation Day at Fanshawe College was in no way held back by quarantine as students from all of the College’s faculties showcased their research project at the virtual event.
This is a time when businesses, surprisingly, are not noticing any dearth of collaborative projects with universities, even as students are placed at the forefront in these new endeavours. Post graduate students at Georgian College’s entrepreneurship centre are curating online content on adjusting business operations during the COVID-19 crisis to share with local companies, while researchers and post-doctoral fellows at University of Windsor are working with three local businesses to roll out a customized made-in-Windsor-Essex hand sanitizer. For those aspiring entrepreneurs-in-making at Bow Valley College and beyond, Entrepreneur-in-Residence will be advising on starting new businesses at a virtual event later this month. Meanwhile, King’s University College’s students reached out to City of London (Ontario) staff to share implementable creative solutions to civic issues at a virtual Hubbub event.
All in all, it is deemed worth mentioning that many universities in Canada have hardly left any stones unturned and demonstrated remarkable resilience, while also enforcing strict social distancing regulations in the times of COVID-19. Thanks to the helping hand extended by the government, universities, colleges, and concerned student associations, situation may not be grim for the students after all, even in the middle of the raging battle against the pandemic.
** Updates announced by the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (22nd April 2020):
- A comprehensive package of nearly $9 billion for college students and recent graduates in the offing
- CERB is now also available for students and new graduates who were not earlier eligible for the benefit. Under this extension, those who were not eligible for CERB will receive $1,250/month. The figure goes up to $1,750/month for students with disabilities or dependents.
- A new fund, Canada Student Service Grant, introduced for students who choose to do national service and serve their communities. They will get up to $5,000 to fund their education this fall.
- Existing federal employment, skills development, and youth programs are expanded to create up to 116,000 jobs to offer placement and training opportunities for students
- Canada Student Grants for eligible full-time students doubled to up to $6,000 and up to $3,600 for part-time students this year.
- Eligibility net for financial assistance expanded by removing student’s and spouse’s contributions in 2020-21
- Maximum weekly amount under Canada Student Loans Program raised from $210 to $350
For the full range of updates, please click here