Fall semester begins at Georgian College with fewer students, hit on the budget

70 per cent of students can do their entire program remotely

The fall semester begins Monday, September 14 at Georgian College and the majority of students will be learning remotely.

According to MaryLynn West-Moynes, Georgian’s President and CEO, they are “open for business in a different model.”

She said 70 per cent of students can do their entire program remotely and about 30 per cent of students will be able to do a large part of their programming remotely, but they will be in-class for labs.

Protocols to protect staff and students from COVID-19 were developed in consultation with the entire college system in Ontario and vetted with the local health unit and provincial health officials.

Georgian has created an app for anyone coming on campus asking students and staff if they have any symptoms and if they have been in contact with anyone with COVID-19. West-Moynes said it allows the school to be in a position to document everybody that has been on campus in case there is a need to do tracing.

Other safety measures include screeners at the front doors, mandatory masks, signage directing people which side of the hall to walk on and what doors they can exit from. There will also be deep cleaning of rooms and labs. There will be no varsity sports and the athletic complex at the Barrie campus is closed.

In a normal year Georgian College has about 11,000 postsecondary students at its seven campuses. The school expects 9,000 this time around.

COVID-19 is also impacting numbers at the student residence on the Barrie campus. West-Moynes said the building will be at half capacity or about 250 to 300 students, each in their own single-unit.

Georgian’s successful International Program has about 23 per cent fewer students. West-Moynes said a number of international students did remain in Canada, and for the first time, the college will offer some remote activity in other countries.

The pandemic has also meant a $43 million hit to the college’s $300 million budget, something the school has worked its way through with a plan until winter.

The shortfall is the result of lost tuition, fewer international students that pay their entire fees without government support, no charge for parking and a drop of about four per cent in domestic students. The college gets about 25 per cent of its funding from the province.

To meet the fiscal challenge, the college is not having the same number of contracted people they once had, support staff have been reduced, faculty will be teaching more then they normally would, and administration all took a week’s cut to their salaries. The college was able to keep its full-time staff on the payroll.

While things will be very different on campus, the student government is still having orientation with fun activities, just with smaller groups of students. All services remain available including peer tutoring, financial aid, and students can book time at the library. Supports are in place for the mental health of students.

“As I look beyond this group of students when they graduate, they will have proven to society that they can manage change, they are resilient and they are going to be great workers for whoever hires them.” said West-Moynes.