By Carmen Chai
Ryerson is selling certificate programs to private companies for money.
Organizational Learning is a department of the Chang School that custom-designs curricula for clients willing to pay up to tens of thousands of dollars for a customized certificate program.
“The Chang School has a mandate to provide solutions,” said departmental director Earl Miller. “If we can provide that service and we can receive revenues for that, then that’s what we’ll try to do.”
Miller said employers approach him to buy everything from small workshops to certificate programs that span multiple terms.
The price of a program depends on its length, the number of employees being trained and the amount of customizing.
A workshop might cost $7,500 while a certificate program could cost $5,000 to $6,000 per student.
President Sheldon Levy said revenue from Organizational Learning helps fund the university’s degree programs.
“We certainly cover our costs, and if there is a profit to be made, we funnel it back to the degree programs,” Levy said.
So far, the Chang School has signed contracts with Air Transat, TVOntario, IBM and the TTC. But some worry Ryerson is putting its integrity at risk.
“Employees should be coming to Ryerson like any other Continuing Education student,” said Ben Lewis, national treasurer for the Canadian Federation of Students and a Ryerson master’s student.
“In any university or college, there’s pressure. There isn’t classroom space for students. And this is a symptom of government under-funding, where universities have to turn to for-profit organizations to supplement their little funding,” Lewis added.
Mark Federman, an adult learning specialist at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, disagreed.
“University is no longer the ivory tower pursuit of knowledge, it’s a business,” he said.
Federman compared universities to factories. “They take raw resources to students, process them through educational factory workers, which are professors and teacher’s assistants, and what they produce is a commodity — graduates ready for our workforce.”
But Lewis said the factory model shuts out programs that don’t directly benefit companies. Levy insisted organizational learning isn’t impinging on degree programs.
“If someone said to me that by doing this, we are sacrificing our degree programs, I’d say well then, we’re making a mistake. But I don’t see that.”