Coronavirus update: May 14, 2020 - 4:20 pm

May 14, 2020

Some big news to share for our students today regarding the federal government’s Canada Emergency Student Benefit program. Please remember to visit our Coronavirus (COVID-19) website for the latest information.

In today’s update:

  • Get ready to apply for the CESB
  • What are “alternate modes of delivery?”
  • Planning for the future as a post-secondary sector

Get ready to apply for the CESB

We know our students have had their lives significantly impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. To help on the financial side, the Government of Canada has created a $9 billion fund to help support students and recent graduates during the summer; the Canada Emergency Student Benefit is one of the measures underway, which the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) is delivering.

The following language regarding how best to prepare comes from the CRA, which I am happy to share with you:

Applications for the CESB will open Friday, May 15, 2020. To get ready to apply, the CRA encourages eligible students to take three important steps:

  • Step 1: Register a profile with the CRA. If you have never filed an income tax return with the CRA, you may not have a profile with us. Call 1-800-959-8281 to activate your SIN with the CRA.
  • Step 2: Register for My Account as this is the fastest and easiest way to apply for the benefit.
  • Step 3: Enroll for Direct Deposit with the CRA through My Account or your financial institution to get your CESB within 3 days of applying. Alternatively, you must ensure your mailing information is up-to-date in My Account to receive a cheque by mail within 10 business days.

Please consider taking advantage of this benefit if you are eligible. I know this situation has been trying financially for many and hope that this will help to some degree.

What are “alternate modes of delivery?”

Based on some of the questions I’ve received, the phrase “alternate modes of delivery” has caused some confusion. Some of you have asked, “Why don’t you just say “online” learning?” 

We don’t use that phrase as not all alternate modes are necessarily online (although predominantly, they are). For example, it’s possible that a student in a remote location could send assignments by mail. In addition, “online courses” mean different things to different people. For example, a course could be offered “synchronously” meaning that all students are required to attend online at the same time. In other cases, courses may be offered “asynchronously” meaning students can login at their leisure and complete the course work by watching pre-recorded lectures, completing assignments or quizzes at different times etc. In short, it’s complex. 

Perhaps it’s best to remember that when we say “alternate modes of delivery,” we mean that the course will not be delivered in the traditional, in-person format, and that we are providing our faculty as much flexibility as possible in offering their courses.

Planning for the future as a post-secondary sector

We continue to receive questions to which we don’t yet have answers. Do keep sending them though as we are continually making decisions and planning for a safe return for our students, faculty and staff. 

As I’ve mentioned previously, the provincial government is asking various sectors to develop plans in a co-ordinated fashion, in conjunction with entities such as the Provincial Health Officer, WorkSafeBC and others. We will receive direction in the coming weeks regarding issues such as housing, return-to-work planning, the Northern Sport Centre and more. Until then, I ask you to remain patient, as frustrating as the situation is. Ultimately, we are focused on your safety, which means we are unable to make premature decisions in advance of the rest of the post-secondary sector that are not aligned or supported by the direction provided to Universities and Colleges by the Provincial Government. Our strategic and informed approach will ensure a return to campus that is safe for all and deliver on our commitment to high-quality academic delivery supported by our faculty and staff.

Thank you, as always, for your continued patience and understanding.

Stay safe!

Geoff Payne,
UNBC Interim President and Vice-Chancellor