Update: April 9, 2020, 11:51 AM
COVID-19 Relief Bursary, Summer Semester Start Dates, Convocation and More
Dear Centennial Students,
Here is the situation
The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged all of us to change the way we interact, organize our lives and care for ourselves and others. Here at Centennial College, the ways in which you have been taught and asked to engage with your professors and advisors have not been immune to those changes, far from it.
But thanks to your faculty and staff teams who have steered us through these uncharted waters, and equally importantly, to your willingness to adapt and adopt, we have been able, for the most part, to complete the Winter semester. That was no small feat, and my heartfelt gratitude goes out to all involved in delivering classes beyond classrooms and services beyond offices and most importantly, for the courage, patience and resilience, you, our student body, have shown throughout – THANK-YOU!
However, transitioning to “learning at a distance” hasn’t been the only challenge you have encountered on this new, uncharted and anxiety provoking journey. You have encountered many – social isolation from your friends and family; uncertainty about the future and most immediately and painfully, a potential and critical loss of earned revenues. We are acutely aware, and have over the past few weeks, been working diligently and creatively behind the scenes to source the money and equally importantly, design the process, to ensure we can financially assist where appropriate and applicable and to do so swiftly and with the absolute minimum of bureaucracy.
And here is the big announcement – a COVID-19 Relief Bursary will be available to you from Monday, April 13 at 7 p.m.
We know that the COVID–19 pandemic has had a dramatic financial impact on many people, particularly students, and has resulted in lost wages or unplanned expenses.
Anticipating your needs, the bursary development process began in mid-March to ensure simple completion, equitable consideration and quick dispensing of funds – and all of these processes are in the final stages of testing to ensure for those who are eligible, that you receive money right into your bank accounts – potentially, only days after a completed application.
This bursary money will provide those who meet the requirements with some financial supports to help you purchase food and, for those currently without it, internet access, to engage in learning at a distance.
Who is eligible?
You are eligible if, between March 16 and April 17, you were enrolled in a Ministry-approved program (full-time or part-time) at Centennial College and experienced one or both of the following:
- Lost income, either from your employment or from the employment of a family member you are financially dependent on
- The need to purchase internet access for your courses online (i.e., learning at a distance)
When and how can I apply?
The COVID-19 Relief Bursary application will launch on April 13 at 7 p.m. Before you begin your application, please have the following documents ready for upload and input:
- A Record of Employment (ROE) or letter (from your employer or from the employer of the family member who financially supports you) that confirms lost wages between March 16 and April 17.
- An Internet-related bill as evidence that purchase of internet service was required in March or April for learning at a distance.
- Complete banking information (i.e. account and bank details, name of account holder).
Don’t forget there are other online supports and services and, possibly, additional financial supports available to you
The COVID-19 Relief Bursary is just one of many College supports (from counselling and advising, through to learning strategies and tutoring) that are now offered online. These can all be found conveniently on our Student Success Resources webpage. In addition, you may have access to additional funding available through Employment Insurance or the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). We encourage you to visit the websites and engage with their forums for further information.
We are also going to return money to you and pro-rate refunds for lockers, parking and relevant ancillary fees
We all agree that students should not have to pay for facilities or programs that are not accessible – physically because college facilities are closed or because they cannot be offered virtually.
As a result, locker, parking, and ancillary fees will be refunded beginning April 13, 2020.
The amounts will vary based on the types of ancillary fees being paid, but generally, full-time students who pay ancillary fees will be refunded approximately $21.50 each for the period beginning March 16 (when the College suspended classes) through to the end of the semester on April 17.
For current students, refunds will be credited to your Centennial account and applied against current or future fees. Graduating students with a positive balance will receive a refund through electronic fund transfer (if information provided) or within 6-8 weeks by cheque (to the address on myCentennial).
Summer Semester Start Dates and Course Availability
To allow the successful completion of the winter semester, the summer semester start date will move from Monday, May 4 to Monday, May 25. Summer semester will now be 13 weeks in length (originally a 15-week semester) and will not include the Engagement Week break. The entire summer semester will proceed as learning at a distance or online, similar to many other colleges.
We are currently in the midst of finalizing the schedule for upper-semester courses and we will share this information soon.
Once again, Chromebooks will be made available for students who are in need of a device for engagement – watch for this information coming soon.
How we will deliver Convocation 2020
Given the directives from Public Health to maintain physical distancing, and the current travel restrictions worldwide, we will not be holding our traditional on-campus convocation ceremonies, originally scheduled from June 10 to 18.
Convocation is the highlight of the year for the Centennial community, when we formally gather to celebrate students’ accomplishments. While we cannot fully replace the feel of a traditional on-campus ceremony, we are proud to announce that we have a solution to continue this tradition of celebrating accomplishments – particularly important for us as a community this year.
Centennial will be hosting its first Virtual Convocation in June 2020. You will receive further information through your myCentennial email later this month on how to engage (and even customize) your Virtual Convocation.
We appreciate that this may not be the ideal, but it keeps you and your friends and family from harm’s way while you are still being formally recognized for graduating and receiving the opportunity to be cheered on by all who know you, wherever they may be in the world. Once you have fulfilled the academic requirements of your program, applied to graduate, and are cleared for graduation, you will receive your diploma/degree/certificate, and may proceed with your post-graduation plans, including employment or further education, with pride.
In addition, we sincerely hope to invite the Class of 2020 back for an in-person recognition celebration at some point in 2021. The timing and nature of this celebration will depend on how the COVID-19 situation unfolds. We will connect with you in the future to better understand your needs and hopes for this event.
Costs for Courses Delivered Online
You are paying tuition fees for a quality education and we will continue to deliver that quality during the Teaching at a Distance through the end of the semester, so tuition will not be refunded. During the recent temporary suspension of classes, our faculty used the time to transform their learning materials and create digital content accessible remotely.
Student services such as counselling have also migrated to formats that you can access from the comfort of home. We are committed to supporting you in completing your semester with us.
We agree that you should not be paying fees for goods or services that you do not have access to; notably, facilities that have been required to close for public safety or services that cannot be offered virtually. These will be partially refunded for Winter 2020 (as noted before) and we are finalizing the extent of fee charges for the summer semester and you will see this communication as soon as it is available.
In short, overall costs for courses delivered online will be less because of ancillary fees, and tuition will remain the same because of the required costs for uncompromised academic quality.
If you have any questions or needs, please contact the Student COVID-19 Hotline (416-289-5000, press 7), available from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday to Friday.
We are here to support you
I truly hope, from what you have read above and from previous notes from me, that you know we are doing all we can to put you front and centre – you matter. We want you to be able to complete your Winter semester, to receive refunds for services that were inaccessible and to be eligible for financial supports where you have a genuine need. Coming together and pulling together as a community, and rethinking how we do things, while still supporting you every step of the way (many things have changed but we remain steadfast on that point!) is how we will get through this period of unprecedented change and uncertainty. And we will get through, and be all the stronger and more able as a result, of that I have no doubt.
Please stay safe and well,
Craig Stephenson, President and CEO
Update: April 6, 2020
Dear Centennial Colleagues,
I am sure it won’t have gone unnoticed, as we enter the fourth week of our new, lived reality, that today, Monday, April 6, was the day we had originally hoped to be returning to our beloved College spaces. As we shared last week, under current circumstances, we must keep our campuses closed until further notice, but we will continue to teach and provide our services remotely, wherever practical and possible.
This truly leaves us in uncharted waters, unquestionably exposing the College to ambiguity and risk, but waters we will continue to navigate as diligently and as thoughtfully as possible. We have already mobilized to respond to the situation by launching our Emergency Operations Centre and Incident Management System (IMS) structure, and by initiating a range of responses, from minimizing the numbers on our campuses through to “Teaching at a Distance” and operating key services remotely. We have also begun to stabilize under this new order by placing Business Continuity Planning (BCP) front and centre, engaging stakeholders across the college to not only ensure continuity, but also to focus on the Summer Semester – see below for an exciting announcement! We now have to strategize by reviewing our financials, engaging in scenario planning and realigning College strategy to address life post COVID-19. Indeed, the ‘Triple E Strategy’ (Enrolment, Employment and Empowerment), which I spoke about earlier in the year, is going to become more important than ever, but even this approach will have to be recalibrated to address a post-COVID-19 landscape.
I fully appreciate that what I am sharing may add to a sense of unease and insecurity for many of you. The team and I do not yet have all the answers, or every pathway clearly marked out. However, we do have resolve, copious amounts of resolve, and we have a North Star: to make the right decisions to ensure the long-term stability of Centennial College at every juncture. As time rolls on, and this situation evolves, we will need to continue to adapt. Some of those adaptations will be informative and may well lead to new ways of doing things. Other adaptations may be more difficult and challenging for our people but, ideally, will be short lived. What will not change is our commitment to the safety and security of this community, as well as our commitment to transforming lives and communities through learning.
We're investing in new ways to study this summer
To this end, I am proud to announce that in our continued efforts to support prospective students, both locally and globally, Centennial is currently developing a series of world-class, virtual learning experiences launching this summer semester.
Based upon collaboration between our valued full-time and contract faculty, and external vendors with significant experience delivering online learning, a suite of 23 programs will be launched online to enable students to get a virtual jump start on their education. The programs, run by The Business School and School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts, will feature leading-edge, interactive learning opportunities.
Simultaneously, we are working on contingency plans for other programs, to assess what can be taught at a distance, versus programs that may be suspended due to the high level of lab or practical content. These decisions will be based on how the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve.
Bursary and Fundraising
Recognizing that financial need has been a barrier to education for many of our students, and presents even more of a barrier now given the current economic situation, the College is vigorously finalizing details for a COVID-19 Student Relief Bursary. The process will be largely automated and announced within the next three days. The intention of the bursary is to enable academic engagement for the remainder of the Winter 2020 semester by providing those eligible with some relief, notably to purchase food because of the impact of lost wages (resulting from layoff or reduced hours) and/or the need to purchase internet access for online study – both of which were unplanned costs associated with COVID-19.
To further assist with financial need, the College will also be refunding a pro-rated amount of Ancillary Fees and costs for locker rental and parking. We all agree that students should not be paying for facilities that are closed/inaccessible, or some services that are no longer available. The details will be released this coming week, but I am proud to communicate that nearly $2 million in funding and fees will be migrating to students’ pockets.
Lastly, our Office of Development and Alumni Engagement will soon be reaching out to the community with an appeal for donations that will help get students into our virtual classrooms – as $2 million will not be enough as we move into the Summer 2020 semester with a job market that will be recovering. While everyone is struggling, we know that the combined sum of our community efforts (whether financial and/or in spirit) will go a long way for our students.
SHTCA partners with House of Neighbours
Finally, I want to recognize the efforts of our colleagues who are working to support our community at large. Today, a small group of volunteers from the community organization House of Neighbours will arrive at The Local Café and Restaurant to pack up as much of the remaining food as possible. The food will be parcelled into boxes and baskets and provided to “high needs” families in Scarborough. Staff from our School of Hospitality, Tourism and Culinary Arts, as well as Facilities and Safety and Security, will run point and ensure physical distancing.
These types of efforts speak to the essence of who we are as a College. Within our communities, we will continue to step up and step forward, when and where we can, to support our front-line health care workers and provide assistance to the most vulnerable. Within our own community, we will ensure our strength and resilience sees us through these unprecedented and uncertain times. We will continue to focus on our students – the most important people in our world – by delivering quality teaching, research and transformative learning experiences.
I firmly believe that when we come out on the other side of this crisis, the work that we do at Centennial will be more important than ever. We will be here, ready to inspire students with a sense of hope and possibility, and play a meaningful and vital role in the rejuvenation of our local communities and our nation as a whole.
With heartfelt gratitude,
Dr. Craig Stephenson
President and CEO, Centennial College