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As a registered charity, Columbia College is continually seeking new ways to support international students and enable their access to higher education. Higher living costs in Vancouver present an ongoing challenge for international students. The College is pleased to announce the launch of a new initiative to offset the expense of a Compass Card to access public transportation throughout Metro Vancouver with the inaugural aCCess Card.
This program is the newest initiative made possible by the new Institute for Equity and Advancement in Education launch in June this year. Through the pandemic it became clear that many students were forced to complete their course work from smartphones as they could no longer access the computers on campus and were not in a position to purchase a laptop. In response the College Board approved a proposal to support the student body through the Laptop Assistance Program, which provided $600 to every student for the purchase of a new laptop. The impact of the program over the course of COVID-19 pandemic was significant. The college is proud to share that more than 1300 students were supported to purchase laptops since the inception of the program in June 2020, with a disbursement of over $800,000 in funding to students.
“When Covid-19 hit our lives, everything was so difficult, especially learning online. This was something new which I had never experienced. It was quite hard for me to understand how to start online classes, and on top of that I did not have a laptop. I could not even buy one as I lost my job right when the pandemic had started. It was not at all easy, but my phone was everything for me for the next few months. Then our college introduced Laptop Assistance Program to help out students like myself to get a laptop and access our virtual classes easily. I completed rest of my study online without any problem with the laptop which also enhanced my digital literacy and my typing speed also improved drastically. I am very grateful to Columbia College for their assistance in making students’ online learning easy.” – Inderpal Singh CC Alumni.
With the return to in-person classes and restored student access to college facilities, the Laptop Assistance Program has been phased out and replaced with a new initiative to support students: the aCCess Card.
“Access to public transportation has been identified by the College Student Association as one of the most significant non-academic challenges facing students. While the College cannot support the full cost of transit passes for all students throughout their studies, this program is intended to partially offset the costs of a Compass Card and provide initial stored value for students to begin accessing public transit in Metro Vancouver. I am delighted that we could make ‘aCCess Card’ possible for our students”- Mark Friesen, Executive Director IEAE .
Columbia College has committed to allocating $500,000 in funding towards the aCCess Card for the 2022-2023 academic year. The aCCess Card will provide new College students with a Compass Card from Translink with $175 in stored value that can be applied towards a Monthly Pass or used to pay for transit in Metro Vancouver. Additionally, continuing students who already have a Compass Card will be eligible to have the $175 transit subsidy added to their existing card.
Summer 2022 was a roller coaster for all of us. The College implemented many changes this semester and has provided better opportunities for international students to excel. When students faced financial challenges during the pandemic, CC came up with the LAP for non-stop online learning. This has benefitted more than 1300 students at the College. However, in the last few months, we began advocating for a long time concern from students about high transit fares. The Student Association brought up the issue with higher administration at the College. After multiple meetings, discussions and deliberations, (including one where I was drenched as I walked back to my political science class after meeting MLA Melanie Mark to explore options), I am glad the aCCess Card is now available for CC students to benefit from. Even after many ups and downs, the College is trying its best to assist the student body.” – Nabhdeep Kaur Gill, College Student Association Chair.