More students on campus in the fall is the plan for Saskatchewan Polytechnic (Sask Polytech).
Dr. Has Malik, provost and vice-president academic at the post-secondary institution, said the plan is to increase that number while continuing with a hybrid form consisting of both remote and in-person learning.
“In terms of in-person learning, I would say right now we have around 35 per cent of our students on campus at any one time,” he said via Zoom on Thursday.
“Most of our learning happening is very much hands-on so students have to be in shops, they have to be in clinics, they have to be in labs and at least for a portion of their learning.
“(Come the 2021 fall semester) we are expecting that the numbers would be closer to 50 to 55 per cent of our student body … just gradually moving towards full reopening for all our programs.”
With the gradual transition on four campuses in Regina, Saskatoon, Moose Jaw and Prince Albert, Malik said all COVID-19 guidelines of the Saskatchewan chief medical health officer will be followed to ensure student and staff safety.
“That’s going to remain in place but we are going to be opening some of the services or most of the services on campus to ensure that students do have access to the facilities and the services that they’re used to, accustomed to, having on campus,” Malik said.
“Depending on how things look like by fall, we might relax some of those criteria so it might not be two metres distance, it might be 1.5 or even one-metre distance.
“We will be opening our other services like library services and computer labs and we’ll make sure that there is some control in terms of the number of students who might be in that space.”
Enrolment declined around six per cent the last couple semesters at Sask Polytech with a typical student population of between 20,000 and 25,000, according to the provost.
“There has been a little bit of a dip and particularly we’ve found that our Indigenous students, in particular, have had a challenging time because they do need the services on campus. So that’s been an area that’s been particularly hard-hit,” Malik said.
“We’ve seen some decline in international population of students as well.”
Once students start their programs in the 2021 fall semester, there will be a change to their tuition.
“For this current year is that we did freeze the tuition. There was no increase between last year and this current year,” Malik said.
“But for next year, we are looking at a four per cent increase … just to keep up with inflationary costs that we are facing internally.”
Malik recommends COVID-19 vaccination for students and said he thinks it’s going to an interesting transition into an improved way of delivering their curriculum and services.
“I would strongly recommend that if a learner has not had an opportunity to get vaccinated, I would strongly recommend that they do. Again it’s for their own benefit and also for the community at large. And we are hoping that when that there’s sufficient number of folks who are vaccinated, we won’t even require a masking mandate,” he said.
“I think that would create a sense of normalcy when we get that critical mass of folks vaccinated.
“A post-COVID normal, I don’t know if we’re ever returning to the way things were prior to COVID but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I think we have learned a lot around what our strengths are, what we can do to give students a little bit more options.”
Both the University of Regina and University of Saskatchewan have announced their intention toward a transition back to in-class learning this upcoming fall semester.