May 4, 2020Last week, the Government of Canada announced a historic $9-billion student aid package to help alleviate the financial burden faced by many students who are finding their summer job prospects severely limited as a result of restrictions on businesses caused by the COVID-19 crisis. This has been one of our principal advocacy priorities and we are thrilled to see the federal government take action to help students. This financial aid means that all students will have the resources needed to continue their studies, including those among the most vulnerable when global crises disrupt the status quo.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we shared how colleges and institutes have come to the aid of medical professionals, employing applied research facilities and 3D printers to find innovative ways of meeting demand for medical equipment; and have responded to physical distancing measures by moving teaching and learning online. But colleges and institutes always have their students top of mind, and have moved quickly to make sure student supports, from academics and tutoring opportunities, to finance, well-being and mental health support would remain available despite campus closures and disruption.
Our members have made a wealth of support mechanisms available for students during this time, including resources for managing stress and anxiety, tailored approaches for Indigenous students, help in acquiring necessary equipment to complete studies virtually, and creative ways of maintaining connected communities while physically distancing. For example:
- Before government financial relief was announced, many colleges organized financial assistance and emergency relief bursaries for students, both domestic and international, and in many cases through collaboration with the institution’s student union to best meet their needs, including Coast Mountain College, Douglas College, Fleming College, Vancouver Island University, Collège André-Grasset, and more.
- In collaboration with United Way Yukon, 48 Yukon College students needing additional support received grocery gift cards to assist help meet their immediate needs, whether it’s food, medications, cleaning supplies, or clothes.
- Red River College’s Indigenous Student Supports quickly got to work ensuring that their Indigenous students were supported during this time, organizing deliveries of computers and emergency food hampers, and are also preparing traditional medicines such as sage and cedar so students can smudge at home.
- Sheridan College’s Inclusive Communities team has launched a webinar series looking specifically at ways to support Indigenous students who may be disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in their transitions to online learning.
- Saskatchewan Polytechnic students can book online video appointments with counsellors, including Indigenous counsellors and accessibility counsellors, on the institutions student wellness webpage and Learn from Home support page.
- Loyalist College is helping find accommodations in local hotels and providing funding for food and other necessities for nearly 200 international students following campus residence closures related to COVID-19.
- Working with the Montmorency Student Association (l’Association des étudiantes et des étudiants de Montmorency) Collège Montmorency was able to help low-income students obtain necessary computer equipment to allow them to continue their studies from home.
- BCIT released a new Mental Health at Home service to provide students with tips, resources and one-to-one sessions to help manage stress, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness and isolation, and adjust to learning from home.
- Conestoga College Student Engagement Services workshops, including Conversation Cafés and Transition Talks!, help students stay social connected during distancing efforts.
- Humber College’s Student Life team is ensuring that vital support services remain accessible online, including virtual counselling support and Peer-Assisted Study Sessions (PASS) that allow students to connect with peer tutors online.
- George Brown College has also moved its peer tutoring online for those needing support with English, math, accounting, and study skills, and quickly trained more than 50 peer tutors in using specialized digital tutoring platforms and interacting virtually with students.
- Collège la Cité put together a special website with resources for students adapting to distance learning, including articles on how to manage stress as courses come to an end and a webinar with tips for how to maximize the potential of online classes.