Cashing in on continuing education

In FeaturesLeave a Comment

Reading Time: 4 minutes

By Taeeba Sadar

A surge in the number of continuing education students is generating large profits for Ryerson, but resources are being stretched as the university struggles to accommodate two distinct sets of students.

Tensions are rising for undergraduate and CE students studying photography who are constantly vying to book work space.

The School of Image Arts instituted a new rule this year which gives CE students priority during the evenings. Day students are now required to return cameras and vacate dark rooms and editing suites by 6 p.m. Although they can resume work by 7 p.m., space permitting, many day students say the disruption hinders their productivity. Furthermore, they complain that the policy prohibits them from using still cameras and colour darkrooms, which CE students don’t even use.

“I clearly blame the CE instructors,” says Nico Oved, a second-year photography student. “They are reluctant to plan ahead and give us their schedules.”

Don Rysdale, operations manager at the School of Image Arts, said Ryerson works hard to address student concerns but at times the situation cannot be resolved.

“There are problems sometimes because when the terms end people are scrambling to finish assignments and all the space is taken up,” says Rysdale. “It may be unfair but we do our best. But there is not much we can do when classes are running [in the labs].”

The School of Image Arts earns $50,000 in income every year from CE, which could explain why CE students are given preferential treatment during the evenings.

Adult education is a lucrative venture and the benefits of hosting such a high volume of students outweigh the drawbacks, according to the university.

The competition between York university, the University of Toronto and Ryerson to entice prospective students has been intense.

Ryerson mounted an aggressive marketing strategy in 1998 called “Start Here, Get There,” aimed at luring educated Torontonians to CE. A series of advertisements were placed in buses, subway cars, and in newspapers.

A memo to the Eyeopener from the office of CE Dean Marilynn Booth made a point of highlighting the campaign’s success, stating that “Over the four years that we have been running an advertising campaign, CE registrations have increased by more than 25 per cent.”

There are 78,000 people enrolled in the CE program this year, up from 60,000 last year.

Ryerson has also gained financially. Students in CE are charged a minimum of $421 per class and the 2003-2004 operating budget anticipates a staggering $24 million from tuition fees alone — that’s an increase of $6 million over the last two years.

In a 2001 interview with Night Views’ Frank Cappadoccia — former general manager of CESAR — commented that in 2001, CE expenditure had been capped at $14.1 million while revenue was estimated $18 million.

“The question is whether CE is here to create revenue for Ryerson or to provide opportunities for adult learners?” said Cappodoccia.

Booth said that the bulk of the money is used to pay salaries. But where regular professors earn $71,000 on average per year, CE instructors make about $3,800 per class, a drastic difference.

She also said that excess revenue was used to further program development and delivery, and improve services for students.

Ryerson plans to renovate the vacant CJRT building at 297 Victoria St. to be the new headquarters of CE offices and programs. The construction could cost the university up to $11.4 million. Board of Governors member Raymond Chang donated $2 million to the cause last year. Chang, who has been on the board since 2001, said that 10 per cent of his employees had taken CE courses at Ryerson.

Booth said that the university takes great efforts to make CE accessible to its students.

“CE provides direct financial support to students through a bursary program administered jointly with CESAR,” Booth said. “We also offer extended hours of service and options such as online learning and satellite centers for the nursing program. We also share revenues with schools and departments to support quality curriculum and teaching aids.”

Apparently the support isn’t sufficient and lately CESAR has been short on cash. This year it initiated a fundraising drive called the ‘Power of 5’ and levied $5 from students in fees, which will be used for bursaries, new services and a CESAR Student Life Centre.

CESAR President Andre Cherrie could not be reached for comment.

If recent trends are any indication, Ryerson can continue to rely on adult education as a source of extra income.

“If people don’t learn they will fall back in a knowledge based economy,” said Booth. “We aim to be a life-long learning provider.”

A report by Statistics Canada revealed that the Canadian economy depends on adult education to help generate brain power, create new products, provide better services and develop innovative ways of doing business.

“We know that some of our students have their tuition paid by their employer,” said Booth. “It indicates that continuing education is a good investment.”

Sociology professor Patrizia Albanese explains that the boom is driven, in part, by women who have re-emerged in the workforce after prolonged periods devoted exclusively to child rearing.

“It is a commonly known fact that many part-time students are older women,” said Albanese. “Unfortunately, children have a serious impact on women’s educational attainment and career opportunities.”

Distance education remains a popular choice and has made learning accessible for many working women juggling duties at the office and at home.

So far 16 courses are taught over the Internet, through study guides and the use of audio cassettes.

“It’s growing faster than on-campus learning,” said Booth. Ten of 71 CE certificates can be completed via distance learning.

Ryerson’s CE program evolved considerably since its inception in 1975.

CE now employs 875 teaching instructors, offers 1,050 courses, and confers 71 certificates in six disciplines including arts, business, communication and design, community services, engineering and applied sciences and information technology.

Karen Hall, 34, is an international student from Guyana, who is enrolled in disability studies. Born without the use of her right hand, Hall wants to work with the Canadian government to develop policies that will help disabled people.

“Often times people who make policies don’t feel them,” says Hall. “The CE program has been very supportive [of my career goals]. It is very flexible and with evening classes I will complete my degree in two years.”

— With files from Elysse Zarek

Leave a Comment