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Cash flows for post-pandemic recovery at colleges, universities

'We know students need a little extra help right now. The effects of the pandemic are still revealing themselves to us,' says provincial official.
Adrienne Galway of the Ontario College of Articulation and Transfer speaks at Georgian College in Barrie Friday morning.

Georgian College is receiving funding for a new course providing students with more social, cultural and education tools to help with their academic recovery from the pandemic.

The Ontario Council on Articulation and Transfer (ONCAT) has awarded more than $560,000 to colleges and universities to aid this recovery, Adrienne Galway, ONCAT executive director, announced Friday morning at Georgian’s Barrie campus.

“We know students need a little extra help right now,” she said. “The effects of the pandemic are still revealing themselves to us.”

Georgian College’s share is $43,000, and it’s looking at helping 15 students in the first semester of 2024, another 15 next summer.

“The course is a mix between a first-year experience course, which is meant to help students navigate the complex environment of post-secondary when it comes to funding and accessing our student support,” said Mark Dorsey, co-ordinator of general education and electives at Georgian College.

“It’s also a bit of a mature learner course, so it’s going to introduce students to adult learning theories as well, just to get them used to what it’s like learning in a college environment and succeeding in a college classroom,” he said, “because it is a little bit different from what they might have been used to in their previous education experience.”

In Georgian’s general education course, students will also learn life skills such as resiliency and self-advocacy. And the college will assess whether this new course could help waive some admission requirements into select programs for students who may be missing an English or humanities credit from high school. 

ONCAT projects also include summer courses to help students recover pandemic-related academic gaps, coaching and mentorship programs to help students transition to and adjust to post-secondary studies, and specialized supports for Indigenous learners, mature students and prospective students from historically unrepresented groups. 

All the courses are designed to help students whose academics have been disrupted during the last few years by COVID-19.

Also receiving ONCAT funding for this initiative are Cambrian College, George Brown College, Humber College, Lakehead University, Niagara College, York University, and College La Cite.

“Post-secondary institutions are still navigating the impacts of the pandemic on the sector, and it is crucial for them to be able to adapt to their students’ ever-changing needs,” said Minister of Colleges and Universities Jill Dunlop, who's also MPP for Simcoe North.

“Through this funding provided by ONCAT, these eight institutions have created strategies to support students affected by the pandemic so they can reach their full academic potential,” said Dunlop.

Three projects at Lakehead University, based in Thunder Bay and Orillia, are receiving $210,794 in ONCAT funding.

Lakehead’s School of Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism has been awarded $98,594 for a project to enhance pathway-transfer for Indigenous students in the north with an interest and/or career goals in outdoor recreation, parks and/or tourism.

Another project has been awarded $35,750 to enhance the transition of transfer and mature students to university. A team from both Lakehead campuses will work collaboratively with internal and external partners to develop a seminar course to help students develop awareness of university supports and academic expectations.

Through the seamless transfer program, a third project has received $76,450 for the development of a mature student orientation leaders’ model, to increase capacity internally by creating a sustainable, broad support network of mentors and leaders. This project will allow for early engagement in building awareness and offering targeted supports for mature and transfer students in addition to students who face ongoing barriers.

A 2022 report from Ontario’s higher education quality council recommends enhanced opportunities for skills development, academic preparation and transitional supports to prepare students for success in their education, particularly for those whose studies were interrupted or affected by the pandemic. 

ONCAT was created in 2011 to enhance academic pathways and reduce barriers for students looking to transfer among Ontario’s public colleges, universities and Indigenous institutes. ONCAT receives $7.5 million in annual funding by the Ontario government.