COVID-19 costing students their co-op

Graphic by Harshitha Damodaran

One student, who wished to remain anonymous, told Imprint she was forced to terminate her work term early since she felt unsafe at work.

“I felt very uncomfortable going into the office on a daily basis, as I personally struggle with germaphobia. I communicated this … but I felt like my concerns were not taken seriously,” the student said.

She said that she could “hear individuals coughing and sometimes sneezing on a regular basis” during her last couple of weeks going into the office.

The student said she was employed as a Product Development Engineer at a Research and Development office in Oakville.

Speaking to upper-management, the student said was told she would not be able to work from home since the company did not have the necessary resources to support this transition.

The student said her employer gave her the choice to either continue coming into the office, take a week off unpaid, or end her work term early.

After speaking with her co-op advisor, the student said she decided to take the  what she saw as the last option, prioritizing her own safety.

Since then, she said she has lost seven week’s worth of pay and has strong concerns about how she will afford the final year of her Chemical Engineering degree.

“I do not currently have sufficient funds for my upcoming school term, let alone basic necessities such as monthly rent and food expenses,” she said.

The student said UW’s Financial Aid Office advised her to apply to some of the school’s bursaries, but there is no guarantee she will receive the funds she needs. 

While UW’s co-op program demands five-year-long undergraduate degrees instead of the standard four, the work terms within provide students with valuable real-world work experience and allow them to earn money.

For many, the income earned through co-op internships goes directly toward paying the next term’s tuition, rent in KW’s increasingly expensive housing market, and other student expenses including textbooks and food.

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic caused many Canadian workers to lose their jobs and income sources, and UW students are no exception. 

Students who have been laid off due to COVID-19 will be eligible for the Canadian Government’s announced Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which will replace their Employment Insurance benefits.

It still remains unclear if other students will qualify for CERB as well, although Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hinted at more relief.

“In the coming days, we will announce additional measures to help the most vulnerable, [including] youth… We’re going to have more news to share with you very soon,” Trudeau said.


Recognizing the gap in available funds for students, WUSA has taken initiative. Last week, the organization committed to establishing the Student Support Fund, which will include upwards of $30,000 for UW students financially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the fund’s announcement, WUSA called for UW and alumni to chip-in and help support the student body.

In an email to all students on Mar. 27, UW announced they will not be reducing tuition fees for the upcoming Spring term.

“In these challenging circumstances, we remain committed to bringing students the quality learning experience they expect from Waterloo,” the statement said.

However, since certain on-campus services would not be available, UW said they would review all incidental fees. An announcement regarding those will be made on Apr. 3.


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