The forced partnership between Queen’s & Athabasca University takes advantage of students

Courses at Athabasca cost more and offer less

Eliza believes Queen's students deserve better.
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Queen’s encourages students to enrol at Athabasca University to make up credits when completing them at Queen’s is not a timely or viable option. This forced partnership is not working and doesn’t serve students.

Queen’s School of Computing sends students to complete courses at Athabasca University, an online university based in Alberta. Students must earn at least a 65, or a Queen’s C to get their transfer credit. Courses taken outside of Queen’s show up as “TR” or transfer on an official transcript and cannot be counted towards their GPA.

There are many reasons why a student may not complete a credit at Queen’s, whether that be because of a reduced course load, a failed course, a schedule conflict, a semester on an exchange, or a semester taken off. Especially during COVID-19, students are turning to their academic advisors for options and flexible ways to complete their degrees in ever-changing circumstances.

In smaller faculties, like computing, courses are offered once an academic year or less. This includes core requirement courses.

Say a student missed a course typically offered in the winter semester, if that course is a core requirement or prerequisite for the subsequent faculty courses, that student may not be able to take any degree requirements in the fall, and only take co-requisites in the winter semester.

This would delay their estimated graduation by a year. For many Queen’s students, this means another year of hiked rent in the student district, another year paying for textbooks, and another year of tuition, student fees and loans.

An academic advisor would recommend taking the corresponding course online at Athabasca University. Computing alone offers 14 equivalent courses.

However, one 3.0 credit course at Athabasca University for a new student costs approximately $1,040. This includes the general application fee ($118), tuition fee ($510), course administration and technology fee ($139), course materials fee ($51), students’ union and alumni relations fee ($13.25) and the out-of-province fee ($209).

Granted, residents of Alberta do not pay the province fee, but everyone is on the hook for the unlisted cost of an invigilated online exam. The recommended platform is ProctorU, on which a three-hour exam costs roughly $35. As if that wasn’t enough, the Letter of Permission needed by Queen’s for the course transfer has an administrative fee of $60.

A 3.0 credit in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences for domestic students is roughly $600, meaning one course at Athabasca University is shockingly expensive.

Another year spent pursuing your undergraduate degree has its costs, too. Students in stressful situations are being put in impossible positions by the administration. Their options are to take another year to wait for a mandatory course or pay a premium at a separate institution.

Enrolling at another university is not seamless, either. Queen’s scholarships and other financial support may not carry over. The student now has another email to monitor, another student portal to navigate, and more university protocols to learn.

As with their first-year at a post-secondary institution, new students at Athabasca must work to understand university and department expectations. Students must obtain at least a C in their course or it will not be recognized by Queen’s, but are likely trying to do so without knowing who to contact for support, if needed. All these concerns are heightened by the isolation of an entirely online environment and an entirely new university.

Imagine a situation in which taking a summer course at Athabasca is a necessary evil. It’s an unfamiliar school full of unfamiliar people, but still beats the alternative—until the stark differences in academic quality become clear, that is. Queen’s University is consistently ranked within the top universities in Canada, while Athabasca University is ranked 45th. The expensive course includes reading a PDF textbook with fleeting hopes of meeting the learning goals. There’s plenty of reason to wonder why Athabasca has such prestigious status at Queen’s.

University is tough. There should be options for students regardless of how well they fit into the course cadence offered by their faculty. Athabasca, a university that costs more and offers less, should not have such a monopoly on Queen’s students.

Queen’s is failing students by not offering a comprehensive and flexible course calendar. Toting equivalent courses at Athabasca University as a good option is reckless and, at times, insulting. If there was ever a time to offer better support for all students, it’s now.

Queen’s, it’s time to do better. 

 

Eliza is a fourth-year Computer Science student. 

 

 
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