July 9 COVID-19 Update | Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates | UNB

COVID-19 Update

July 9, 2020

Response to UNB Fredericton Student Union

The UNB community is experiencing a great deal of uncertainty as our university adjusts to the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. I am writing to clarify some of the concerns and answer questions as presented by the Fredericton Student Union. 

Why is UNB raising tuition by two per cent?

The two per cent tuition increase is tied to a multi-year agreement with the Province of New Brunswick. A key principle of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is the predictability of tuition increases for students and the Unrestricted Operating Grant from the province. We are in the final year of the four-year agreement.

The university is facing increased costs, in part because we need additional infrastructure to provide alternative delivery method learning platforms to accommodate various courses and labs. Choosing not to increase tuition by the planned two per cent at this time could jeopardize our ability to deliver quality education for all students now and in the future. 

There are additional costs associated with adapting courses and working with blended learning advisors to ensure effective learning. 

We understand that blended learning models change the students’ experiences at university; however, our faculty and staff are committed to providing the same high standard of programming. 

Is UNB still charging student fees in 2020?

Yes. Although some resources are not currently available in-person, UNB will have all student supports in place. UNB offices and support services are still available in alternate formats and will continue to be delivered at full capacity. Students will continue to have access to resources and services such as academic advisors, financial aid, health centres and counselling, library services and various student academic help centres. The decision to charge the facilities access fee will be evaluated closer to September.

Why isn’t UNB doing in-person instruction in fall semester?

Although the return to our campuses for in-person course instruction is limited and the university experience for the fall term is going to be different than what we all expected, UNB remains committed to providing a safe environment for students, faculty, and staff.

We are following New Brunswick Public Health safety guidelines and requirements, which are necessary for managing public health risks and for ensuring the health and safety of the UNB community.

Through the transition phases of reopening our campuses, our guiding principles have been the health and safety of our community, as well as providing an accessible and flexible learning environment for students with the highest quality of education possible. We will maintain this approach throughout the academic year. 

With students taking virtual classes, should tuition be lowered?

Tuition will not be lowered because the cost to run UNB programs has not lowered. Our instructional and research personnel expenses are fixed, and infrastructure is still required to develop course content and provide professional development opportunities for faculty members on the various educational platforms. Faculty members are developing multiple ways for students to access course content, including live/recorded mini-lectures, readings, guided discussion, flipped classrooms, research quests using the Library or other web resources, and other modes of delivery.    

Courses offered through alternative delivery methods will allow instructors the option to break tutorial sessions and classes into smaller groups which provides opportunities for more interaction. 

Why offer alternative delivery method courses if they are inferior?

Alternative delivery method courses are not inferior. Different approaches for delivering educational material and student engagement does not mean substandard. Well-designed virtual courses are just as effective as in-person instruction and a very engaging experience for students.

Peer interaction is also part of the experience, through various group projects, group discussions and experiential learning opportunities.

Advantages of alternative delivery method courses include:

  • Virtual settings open the door for participation for many who were not comfortable to put themselves forward in-person.
  • With smart design, alternative delivery methods offer multiple ways for the students to approach the content and supports different learning styles.
  • With many of the virtual lectures pre-recorded, there are opportunities to review and pace to meet different student preferences.
  • Alternative delivery methods encourage changing from an observer/receiver model to a participant model, which is much more powerful and effective for learning.
  • In many cases, the use of virtual assignments, quizzes, and tests allow faster turnaround for marking, giving the students timely formative feedback which will help guide their learning.
  • Faculty members are being encouraged to pro-actively build connections with students, which may in-fact enhance the traditional face-to-face student experience.
  • Many students are more comfortable with virtual social interaction and the current virtual environment plays to that strength.
  • Many students will be working in remote working environments or working remotely with team-mates or clients in the future. The current virtual experience is an excellent preparation for the 21st century workplace.

Thank you for your continued support and unwavering commitment as we work through the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic in our community. We will continue to address your concerns and provide the latest information on COVID-19 developments.

With kind regards,

Paul J. Mazerolle
President and Vice-Chancellor