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Financial decisions disguised as student benefits

Algonquin is not putting the best interests of students first with the new three-semester system.

The college will be moving to a three-semester format. This will see courses offered by the college year round. With courses offered year round it will increase the number of student intakes from 2 to 3. Some programs have already moved in this direction and others will not be affected.

By moving to a three-semester system the college risks taking valuable time from students – time they can’t afford to give up. Many students depend on the summer to visit their families. Some students depend on the summer to help fund their next semester at school

Working through the summer provides an opportunity for full-time employment or for part-time employees to bolster their hours, and ultimately their paycheques. Many students use the summer months to find work in their field. Others use these summer paychecks for travel, adventure and building their savings to help them through the upcoming school year.

The schedules students have does not leave them with enough money and require the summer months to play catch up.

Not all students are focused on their wallets over the summer. There are students who are incredibly focused on advancing the career they are investing in. Summer internships are a key networking tool that many students use to improve their resumés. By adding a third semester students lose a competitive advantage – they will no longer have four months to build up their resumé. With other colleges not using this model, Algonquin grads are at a significant disadvantage.

To be fair to the college, they have a rebuttal to this. With the college operating over three semesters, programs that have placements will actually benefit from the change in structure. First, there will be more opportunities for students to get the placement they want because placements will not be tied to the winter semester anymore; there will be more flexibility. This allows for Algonquin students to possibly take a placement in the fall semester or even the summer semester.

However, a six-week placement is not going to provide the same experience as a four-month internship. Ultimately, the flexibility offered doesn’t compare with the potential to gain experience. You simply cannot replace experience in the field – it’s what every employer wants from prospective employees.

In the fall semester, students will get a week off similar to the winter semester. The results will see 16 weeks of class reduced to 15. We already know that the upcoming budget will see tuition raised the maximum three per cent. So the college is going to offer less in-class time to students for more money.

It’s hard to reconcile that the college will be operating at a deficit and will be raising tuition costs next year – yet the addition of a third semester is a decision that was made to put learners first. Yes, there will be potential benefits to students, but those are secondary to the focus of the college administration on the bottom line.

The decision by the college is rooted in finances. These changes were made at a time of economic hardship for the college. The strike cost the school $6.7 million, the implementation of the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act is expected to cost $25 million and the college lost $9 million on the failed Jazan campus in Saudi Arabia.

The college is a business. Businesses are beholden to their shareholders. Despite Algonquin being an educational institution, its purpose as a business is to generate money through providing a service.

But the college needs to be honest that this decision is being made to try and recover from financial stress. By altering the schedule to increase the use of their facilities the college is increasing the stress and burdens on its student population. The current two-semester model is used all over Canada with great success.

Algonquin should abandon the three-semester experiment before students apply on mass to other colleges.

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