Camosun College is temporarily shutting down its Continuing Education Department and laying off staff as a result of the pandemic.
In two memos distributed to staff, the college says the decisions are the result of mounting financial pressures and the need to focus on core educational programming.
“When they run well, in normal times, [Continuing Education] makes a small profit,” Geoff Wilmshurst, Camosun’s vice-president of partnerships, said in an interview.
“But when we can’t have face-to-face or that is extremely limited, you can’t get enough people in a virtual classroom to make it viable financially.”
Wilmshurst said the college expects increased financial pressure in the fall and has been looking for ways to reduce costs.
Cutting the program will affect eight people directly — employees who administered the program and faculty who hired contract instructors and developed curriculum.
Wilmshurst said the move is temporary until the COVID-19 outbreak has passed and the school can return to face-to-face instruction. “Camosun has a long history of providing programs for all age ranges,” he said. “And we fill them up and have done so for decades.”
Officials at the University of Victoria and Royal Roads University said that they will still offer continuing education courses online.
Camosun College also announced a “labour adjustment strategy” that will see jobs cut in services that are currently not required. Fewer than 50 people will be affected.
Wilmshurst said the affected positions will be in areas where there is little or no work. He noted with no students on campus there is no parking, the bookstore is not functioning as normal and there’s no food service.
Camosun, like other post-secondary institutions, intends to offer most courses online this fall.
Wilmshurst estimates the college will run as much as 85 per cent of all classes online, with face-to-face instruction in some trades classes where the size of the facilities allow students to maintain social distance.