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Life Long Learning (Originally Published with Canadian Newcomer Magazine)

In Education, Writing (all kinds) on May 14, 2016 at 3:00 AM

The G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education is a name that has been around for about two years. The continuing education program has been around since the early 1980s. It’s been around a long time.

Phil Schalm is the Program Director of Community Services for The Chang School and has been with them since 1989. He has worked with other universities many years before he joined Ryerson.

“What is special about how it is structured here is that continuing education is tightly linked with the faculties,” says Schalm. “So that in a given year, we have around 40,000 people who come through continuing education and take individual semestered courses. It’s a relatively large population. It’s by far the largest university delivery system. At least 80 per cent of those are credit courses that can be put towards certificate programs. They can be delivered as degree programs.”

Schalm mentions that there are many new initiatives at The Chang School.

“Part of what we’re trying to do here is to create an environment where [students] can learn about what the expectations are – to create a portal. To have access to that kind of information on the web or in person and to provide that kind of array of support services for them, ranging from ESL, to prior learning assessment and learning about what are the gaps in previous methods and what do I need to fill and learn here. Hook them up with mentors and give them some workplace experience.”

They’re in the process of developing a program around integrated developing technology professionals, engineers, IT specialists, technology-based scientists, and the medical sciences.

“I’m very excited,” says Schalm.

For example, if someone wants to learn marketing, they can come to the program and get into the certificate program and receive specialized knowledge and later carry the credits into a degree.

“It’s designed to give someone a degree in a specific area on a part-time basis,” says Schalm.

They’re also offering courses over the Internet all over the world. The students are invited into Toronto for a week. In nursing and in non-profit sector studies, there are hybrid courses which are a combination of Internet and face-to-face studies.

“You might come together for two or three days and do the rest of the studies on the Internet,” says Schalm. “You would do the rest of the studies on your own. This is making it more accessible.”

In terms of making it more financially accessible, about seven or eight years ago, OSAP fully funded the part-time program. Currently, you need to be taking five courses, which is about a full-time course load to be OSAP eligible.

“No part-time student can take a full-time load and still be working,” says Schalm. “OSAP has become almost inaccessible. We’re really aggressively building a bursary program.”

This bursary program is for the part-time students. There is also one for the full-time students. There is $20,000 available in funds. This is non-repayable funding support. It helps with tuition and books.

“So many of the people that I’ve talked to are having to hold down two or even three full-time jobs, and on top of that needing to get into their professions – and how do you do that? We need to have some funding support to help them focus on getting their professional access.”

Ryerson has 1,200 courses where many of them lead to degrees. They are professionally-minded programs. Whether it’s magazine publishing, occupational health & public safety, nursing or radio and television arts – they can all lead to degrees or certificates. They profile their students and out of the 40,000 students at Ryerson, over half of them have been in Canada under five years. They already have degrees. They need courses like the Chang School offers, the mentoring and the work placement. Because of low incomes, there is a need for bursaries and The Chang School and Student Council is working on increasing the funds.

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