University students and Island economy bracing for online classes come fall

CHEK
Watch There was optimism that post secondary institutions would reopen this fall, but on Monday the University of Victoria and others say the vast majority of classes will only be offered online due to COVID-19. Local businesses, landlords and students are all bracing for the fallout. Julian Kolsut has this story.

Come fall, students on Vancouver Island’s largest universities will mainly be attending classes online due to COVID-19, which is worrying students and local businesses.

The University of Victoria, Royal Roads University and Vancouver Island University all say classes will be mainly online to keep students safe. In-person instruction for certain courses that require it will still be offered.

UVic’s student’s society says there are concerns with the quality of online classes, saying some students feel they pay too much in tuition fees for what they will be getting

But a university spokesperson says they are not planning to lower fees and say the funds will go towards improving the online experience and maintaining campus services.

Local shops are also worried.

“It will be challenging because we do have some university students and college students shopping here,” said Scott Zaichkowsky, grocery manager for Peppers Foods near UVic.

“It’s a unique area here with the beach being close so by… a lot of foot traffic during the summer days. With students being a big part of that it will be noticeable.”

And they don’t just need students and customers. They need them as workers as well.

“We employ quote a handful of part-time and full-time students depending on the schedule with UVic. So with them leaving and not being around, it’s going to be hard to replace them,” he said.

Landlords are also feeling the squeeze. Grant Wittkamp has been renting to students for 10 years. His current tenants have already started packing up early.

“They asked if they could get early out of the lease, cancel the one year lease and get out early. I said no problem,” said Wittkamp.

“It’s due to COVID of course, and the fact that the University of Victoria is unknown at this point.”

Landlords expect the fallout to continue.

“There has been some response, some people have come to look at this house I’ve got rented,” said Wittkamp.

‘But others are staying away. They are going to be back at home with mom and dad. I’m retired and I rely on that income to live.”

Julian KolsutJulian Kolsut

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