COVID-19 pandemic affects incoming students’ plans and leaves many with unanswered questions

By: Sydney Lockhart

Red River College program intakes are pushed back, putting a setback on student education. 

Due to the pandemic, RRC had to stop on-campus classes this past March creating uncertainty for students preparing to start their college careers in the coming months. 

“It definitely changed my plans; I was excited for my first year in school and to make more money after it,” said 21-year-old level 1 Plumbing student Evan Loewan. 

Loewan’s program is one of over 18 programs held up this fall. 

“They didn’t tell us when it would restart either, I had no clue what was going to happen until I asked around,” he said. 

Loewan said classes were cancelled only two weeks before his scheduled start date in April, and he was informed less than a month before their new scheduled start date in August.

“I’m glad that they pushed it back. How can you teach plumbing online? You have to be in person,” he said. “I feel like the college is very disorganized with how they’re handling our courses.”

RRC has yet to set new start dates for some of the programs, leaving prospective students with fewer course options.

“These changes were made to support that learning while adhering to all of our health and safety measures that are in place on-campus in response to the pandemic,” said Conor Lloyd, College and Public Relations of RRC.

Lloyd said the intake dates were changed due to COVID-19 and the college’s priority was to help returning existing students resume hands-on training and complete their courses first.

Despite these efforts, not all students who had their studies disrupted feel the college is supporting them. 

Nineteen-year-old Kieran McCullagh was almost complete his Aircraft Maintenance Engineer course to get his credit and receive his first apprenticeship level from Transport Canada when the pandemic closed the college.

“It left me in limbo, I had no job and I wasn’t sure what to do. Aircraft Maintenance Solutions hired me, and I have been working with them since, but unfortunately, because I don’t have my level one I’m not earning what a level one AME would have,” said McCullah. 

Months after his program was finished McCullah said a Transport Canada instructor told him he would not give the class their Apprenticeship Level One.

“I got a phone call from my instructor telling me I wasn’t getting the credit that I went to school eight months for,” he said. “Right now there’s no catching up for me, I’m already a year behind. They’re saying there’s a chance I’m getting into school next spring — I’m not banking on that.”

McCullah said he doesn’t blame the school because they had no other option, but he wished they communicated more effectively. 

He said tuition was not refunded to students who were unable to get their Transport Canada Level, even after completing their credit.