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Matthew Gerrits
VP Education
Mon, 03/30/2020 - 14:30

We understand that your learning has been interrupted by the reaction to COVID-19 at the University of Waterloo: with classes having been cancelled for a week, and remaining classes moved online, we know this is not the experience you expected when the term began. We also know that in the spring term, some students will be taking traditionally hands-on labs online. While we have confidence in our instructors and know that UWaterloo online courses are typically high-quality, we know some instructors are pivoting their teaching incredibly quickly, and this may have detrimental effects on some students’ learning.

We will ask the University to consider nominal reductions in tuition that would minimize impact on educational quality, however, there are many complicating factors at play that may make the University unwilling to take this course of action that we want students to be aware of.

Due to chronic provincial underfunding of the post-secondary sector and the recent domestic tuition freeze, the University’s financial position is tenuous. There is also substantial risk that attempting temporary reductions in tuition would cause unpredictable interactions with provincial tuition regulation policy.

While the University is giving pro-rated refunds for items like parking and residence and absorbing those costs, reducing tuition would likely require laying-off of instructors or staff, just when those instructors who are still teaching courses need to put effort into preparing for exams and are also preparing for all-online spring instruction. Similarly, University staff are also busy adjusting to the new reality of attempting to adapt many of their forms of programming to serve students in the coming term.

As your voice, we will ask this of your University administration. We will also be finding ways to provide financial assistance to students who need it most, by working to establish a support fund of up to $30,000 to help students who are struggling financially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We will also continue to ask the provincial and federal governments for targeted supports for students negatively affected by COVID-19. That is why we are also asking the provincial government to put more money in students' pockets. We are asking the federal government to fill gaps in employment insurance and the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit to account for students who lose their jobs, rollout their expansion to student grants early, as well as asking the provincial government to factor the loss of income into their OSAP calculations.

While we want you to know that a tuition reduction is unlikely, we will ask the University for what they can do. We hope you can draw upon your empathy for the University regardless of their decision, as they aim to both support your level of education and your ability to access it during these unprecedented times. We do know that action on the provincial and federal levels is more realistic, and will be working hard in those areas to secure income security for students.