Dear Georgian students,
The COVID-19 pandemic is one of the greatest challenges Georgian has faced in its history. Every student and employee have been personally impacted, both at the college and at home. We’ve all had to make uncomfortable, and sometimes difficult, changes to the way we study, learn, work and teach. I understand the stress, concerns and frustrations each of you have – because I’ve felt or experienced them over the past few months too.
Not only has the pandemic taken a human toll with the devastating loss of so many lives, but it’s also taken a significant economic one. We face one of the largest global recessions in history – and no individual, family, business or sector is immune. Many postsecondary institutions in the United States and United Kingdom face potential bankruptcy and permanent closure. Closer to home, the Ontario college sector and Georgian are struggling too.
I know many of you and your supporters have signed a petition to lower tuition at the college for the fall semester. I want to be fully transparent and share with you why this isn’t possible.
Georgian is a registered non-profit, which means we’re responsible to our communities, taxpayers and the government. Every dollar the college makes goes back into programs, services and supports that serve you – our students; we don’t profit from your tuition.
In order to stay compliant with current legislation, Georgian needs to run a balanced budget each year. Due to enrolment decline across all three semesters, we’ve had to implement substantial cost-savings strategies over the past few months to avoid an approximate $44-million budget shortfall. Those strategies have included delaying planned capital and strategic investments to enhance the student experience, reducing operating expenses across all departments, cutting employee hours, and more. We continue to explore and pursue new revenue sources, but regrettably, I don’t know if it will be enough.
Because of this considerable loss of revenue, and in order to continue to operate and deliver quality education, our tuition must remain as it is. I know that will come as a disappointment to many of you, but I do hope you can appreciate the precarious situation we find ourselves in.
Choosing to start or persist with your education at Georgian during this pandemic is a personal decision – and I encourage each of you to make the choice that’s best for you and your academic and professional goals. Until we can all safely be together again, the way we show up for our studies, our work, and each other continues to look a little different.
For those who do choose to learn remotely this fall, I want you to know we’re here for you – no matter where you are. I also want to remind you of some of the initiatives and resources currently in place to support your studies.
Partial ancillary fee refund
We’ve already made several changes to ancillary fees due to the pandemic:
- Students enrolled in the winter semester received a partial ancillary fee refund for the universal bus pass, and athletics and recreation.
- Those enrolled in the summer semester had the following fees adjusted in full: athletics and recreation; campus safety; universal bus pass; some program-specific ancillary fees, e.g., labs and field trips.
- For the fall semester, the following fees won’t be charged: universal bus pass; athletics and recreation; and campus safety. Program specific fees are currently being determined by each academic area.
- Other ancillary fees, such as counselling services and technical support, will not be refunded as these supports continue to be offered via remote delivery.
More details on changes to ancillary fees can be found at GeorgianCollege.ca/coronavirus.
In summer semester, Georgian offered a $1-million COVID-19 hardship bursary to help ease the financial burden students are experiencing as a result of the pandemic. We plan to launch another COVID-19 hardship bursary for fall semester – stay tuned for more information. In the meantime, if you or your peers need financial support, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our Financial Aid department to explore your options.
Georgian Learning Guarantee
For the fall 2020 semester, we’re implementing a Georgian Learning Guarantee. We want you to succeed. We’ve got your back – so much so that if you choose to withdraw from your program by Oct. 16, 2020, we’ll apply your tuition fees to the first semester when you return in January, May or September of 2021. You choose the program. All you have to do is reapply and be accepted. For returning students, the same applies, we’ll apply your tuition fees for your next semester when you return in 2021. That’s our Georgian Learning Guarantee! Review the details.
If your program requires in-person learning, you’ll still get it. For many of you, this is the hallmark of your college experience. Georgian has already started to welcome students whose courses have a practical learning outcome back to campus in a safe, slow and phased approach beginning this week. Rest assured, you’ll get the skills employers want and you need to reach your goals.
Teaching and the virtual classroom
The sudden shift to remote learning in March was no easy feat – and it certainly wasn’t perfect. We learned a lot of lessons along the way, and I continue to be impressed by how everyone has come together to support each other and to ensure all students meet learning outcomes.
What makes Georgian so great is our people. Our faculty, staff and students have proven over the last few months that a classroom is so much more than a physical space – that learning isn’t dependent on location. I know it’s not what you imagined for your college experience but these aren’t normal times, and I don’t know when we’ll fully return to those days. We need to remain flexible, try new approaches, adopt a growth mindset and yes, even make a few mistakes along the way.
Our faculty are truly dedicated and invested in providing you with a superior online experience. They have access to constantly evolving online tools and professional development to help them enhance your courses. Remote learning certainly changes the student experience but that doesn’t mean it diminishes it. You can still expect much of what you looked forward to: meaningful discussions, thought-provoking content, connections with industry, group projects, and support from knowledgeable and engaged instructors who want you to succeed.
By choosing not to delay your studies, you’re also adding more skills to your toolbox – ones like resilience, adaptability, creativity, innovative thinking and empathy. You’ll learn to embrace technology in new ways. These are skills that will help you stand out with future employers. You’ll also be out in the job market sooner than those delaying and could help play a vital role in the resurgence of our economy. Our communities and our workplaces need you.
Access to supports and resources
Georgian’s team of dedicated faculty and staff are here for you every step of the way with high-quality learning experiences, connections to industry, career advice, tutoring, personal and academic counselling, technical help, financial assistance as I mentioned above (including emergency and COVID-specific bursaries), and so much more. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us so we can understand your needs and connect you to the right supports. No matter your course, program or time zone, you don’t have to feel alone in your learning journey.
We recognize this is a difficult time. You may experience a range of emotions, and that’s okay. Georgian has a number of supports in place and resources to help you manage your mental health. It’s vitally important to take care of ourselves and each other while fostering a supportive, inclusive, kind and safe community.
I sincerely hope each of you decide to continue your studies with us this fall. We truly are in this together.
Be safe, be well and choose kindness.
Dr. MaryLynn West-Moynes, President and CEO