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University and college students still unsure what semester will look like

With the fall semester quickly approaching, many students are concerned about what to expect
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Saint Mary's University is conducting all classes online due to the COVID-19 pandemic (Meghan Groff/HalifaxToday.ca)

While the province announced a testing strategy for all post-secondary students entering Nova Scotia, students are still unsure about what the upcoming term will look like.

“This year is anything but normal,” Students Nova Scotia chair Samantha Graham tells NEWS 95.7’s The Todd Veinotte Show. “We’re trying to make the best of it and replicate the most exciting part of students coming back in September, but it is going to be very different.”

Graham, who’s also the vice president external of Saint Mary’s University Student’s Association, says the communication from post-secondary institutions is unclear.

She says students are frustrated about not knowing what to expect when the semester starts, but there are also more concerns.

While some faculty are sending out the usual emails about syllabi and getting textbooks, Graham says institutions haven’t said anything about protocol if a second wave occurs or if there’s an outbreak on campus.

On top of that, students are still unsure about what their courses will look like and how they’ll be able to engage with their professors outside of class.

Graham says Saint Mary’s University is conducting all classes online while St. Francis Xavier University, Acadia University and Nova Scotia Community College are adopting a hybrid model.

While some courses can easily be taken online, others, such as nursing courses, require hands-on learning and require a hybrid model.

What has been confirmed is living arrangements on campus. Graham says all double rooms have now been moved to single rooms to adhere to public health protocols. For meals, Graham says students will receive boxed meals that will be delivered to their rooms.

Graham also says she has heard students’ concerns over many institutions adopting the 3 per cent tuition increase. While tuition is only a small part of what students pay to post-secondary institutions each year, students also usually have additional fees including textbooks, a bus pass, auxiliary fees and recreational fees.

Depending on the institution, some of these fees may be waived. For instance, Dalhousie University is waiving the athletics and recreation fees for all students ($110 in Halifax and $75.29 in Truro) as well as the Dalplex Fitness Centre fees ($90).

“A big thing this year is about choice,” Graham says.

Some students are taking a year off which will likely benefit their academic success and mental health.

“But a lot of students also don’t have that choice,” she says. “If you’re taking out student loans and you choose to defer a year, you immediately have to start paying back those loans.”

On Aug. 20, the province announced a testing strategy for post-secondary students entering Nova Scotia.

According to the announcement, all students coming to Nova Scotia outside of the Atlantic bubble must self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival. Over the course of the 14-day isolation period, students will be tested at three different times. Students cannot attend in-person classes until completing their testing and self-isolation, and only once they’ve received negative test results.

“We were very excited and glad to see the testing because I think that eases a lot of the anxiety students were having about coming back to an in-person format,” Graham says.

In the first few weeks of the fall semester, Students Nova Scotia is creating a video with Robert Strang, the province’s chief medical officer of health. The video will discuss what future plans will look like and answer other questions.

While the social aspect — like parties, meeting friends and orientation week — is a big part of post-secondary education, Graham says the community must be serious about the pandemic and everyone’s safety.

“The biggest thing right now is that it’s a team effort to ensure safety,” she says. “We don’t want the narrative to be in a few months, if there’s a COVID outbreak, that it’s all placed on the students. Because it is an effort of the community that the university is in — the faculty, the staff, the administration and the students as well. It’s working with the entire team to make sure those public health protocols are being upheld.”



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Chris Stoodley

About the Author: Chris Stoodley

Chris was born and raised in Halifax. After graduating from the journalism program at King's, he started as CityNews Halifax's weekend editor.
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