The fitness centre and the library at Georgian College haven’t been open since March, so why are students having to pay to use them?
Chelsey Rivet asked herself that question, which has turned into a petition boasting nearly 4,000 signatures to have tuition reduced college-wide in September.
However Georgian College says that while they have reduced some costs to students already, it isn’t possible to cut back fees further in light of their own financial struggles they are attributing to COVID-19 and what they estimate will be a $44-million budget shortfall this year.
“In my opinion, my program has suffered greatly from being switched to an entirely online format. All of my final tests were open-book,” said Rivet. “While it was a nice break to have during the start of the pandemic, I feel as though my education suffered.
“I like to really earn everything I get, and not having proper testing makes it feel like my education is worthless,” she added.
Rivet will be going into her second year of her four-year police foundations program at the Orillia campus of Georgian College in September.
After she graduates, her plan is to take the two-year police studies program so she’ll have both a diploma and bachelor’s degree, with her long-term plan being to become a police officer.
“Serving my community and helping people is what I want to do with my life. My dream career is to be a detective for major crimes such as homicide and human trafficking,” she said.
Rivet says she has concerns going forward about the quality of her education, and whether it will prepare her for the real-world applications of becoming a police officer.
“Police foundations is a very hands-on program. Think of all the duties that a police officer is required to do; interviewing suspects, arresting criminals, investigating a crime scene, building a relationship with the community, managing crowds and traffic,” she said. “It is impossible to efficiently learn all of these skills through a computer screen.”
The fitness component of her course has also taken a hit.
“A whole class each semester is dedicated to this, but with online learning, this is nearly impossible. We now have to complete fitness logs on our own at home, when we would usually run and exercise every week with a personal trainer,” she said.
Overall, Rivet says thousands of students chose Georgian because of the hands-on experience it boasts. She said she was inspired to start the petition after hearing many students felt the same way she did.
“I didn't want to just sit and complain and do nothing, I wanted to try and make a change for myself and for everyone else going through the same thing,” she said. “If the product that we are paying for has changed, why is the cost still the same?”
According to the letter Rivet sent to the college with the link to the petition, she estimates about $425 in compulsory fees for each student is for services they are unable to use, so she would like to see that amount waived or refunded.
“I'm not expecting a huge fee reduction for every student. I know teachers still have to be paid, and I know some services are still available remotely,” she said.
In a letter sent to Rivet and addressed to students, President and CEO of Georgian College MaryLynn West-Moynes acknowledged the petition and outlined why the college could not reduce tuition for the fall semester.
“We face one of the largest global recessions in history – and no individual, family, business or sector is immune. Many post-secondary 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,” wrote West-Moynes.
As Georgian is a registered non-profit, West-Moynes said every dollar the college makes goes back into programs, services and supports, and the college doesn’t profit from tuition.
With enrolment on the decline due to COVID over three semesters, she said they expect an approximate $44-million budget shortfall.
As a result, West-Moynes said the college has had to implement “substantial” cost-savings strategies.
“We continue to explore and pursue new revenue sources, but regrettably, I don’t know if it will be enough,” she said. “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.”
West-Moynes ended the letter by outlining different programs the college has at students’ disposal, even if they’re attending online come September. She said the college has reduced fees already for the Universal Bus Pass, athletics and recreation.
For the fall 2020 semester, they’re implementing a Georgian Learning Guarantee, where if students choose to withdraw from their program by Oct. 16, 2020, the college will apply tuition fees to the first semester when students return in January, May or September of 2021.
“I am disappointed that nothing can really be done about the price of tuition,” said Rivet in response to the letter. “However, I do appreciate the fact that the college's president took the petition and letter seriously, and took the time to reply to me and everyone else who cared about it.”
If you’d like to sign the petition, click here.