Despite it being one of Canada’s top universities, the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM) was not one of my top choices when I initially applied for university. I never even considered UTM because my grades weren’t up to their standards back then. I had fallen in love with Laurentian University (LU) in Sudbury instead. Their campus has 11 kilometres of hiking trails and a beach. Their residences offered community-building extracurriculars and I was accepted into a unique program.
The Concurrent Education (ConEd) program at LU would allow me to incorporate teacher’s college into my undergraduate degree, and so, I would be able to graduate in five years as a certified teacher. Regardless of my excitement for the program, things didn’t go as planned. I switched out of ConEd and into a double major in English and Communications in my second year, which I filled with an overload of courses to try and regain my second-year status.
On February 1, 2021, during the second semester of my second year, Laurentian announced their insolvency of $200 million. Staff and students went into a panic because most people found out through Instagram and no one knew what being insolvent meant.
Being insolvent means that the institute still has their assets like buildings, but no physical money. Bankruptcy means you have neither. One of my teachers confirmed that the university didn’t have enough money to pay their staff from February to April. So, misinformation that the school was bankrupt (thanks Canadian Party Life) ran rampant across social media, ruining what little reputation Laurentian had left.
Cue the uncertainty for many students. Would the university shut down entirely? Was there even a point to finishing the semester? It would be two months of waiting until we got answers.
In an attempt to save themselves, Laurentian announced on April 1, 2021 that they were dissolving their partnership with their three federated universities on campus. The federated universities were individual institutes where students could obtain a degree from them directly or through Laurentian using their courses. My second major, Communications, was through one of the “feds,” Huntington University.
I had been taking six courses and putting myself through incredible stress and burnout, only to not have a program after the semester ended.
That was only the beginning.
12 days later Laurentian cut 69 undergraduate and graduate programs that day, not including the programs already cut by their dismantlement of the federated universities. I scrolled through dozens of tweets from Laurentian professors announcing their heartbreak that they would no longer be employed at Laurentian after the semester ended and that their program would disappear along with them.
I applied to UTM for English and I would have applied for UTM’s Communication, Culture, Information, and Technology (CCIT) program, but Laurentian announced their insolvency the same day that most university’s applications closed. Convenient for LU right?
A decision had to be made. Would I stay at Laurentian to finish my one uncut program, or transfer to another school to hopefully finish both? I finally decided to accept my offer to UTM, only to realise almost three weeks later that the same day I had accepted my offer, I was supposed to submit a transfer credit application. Already three weeks late, I had to scramble to get over 20 syllabi from professors no longer employed at Laurentian for classes that no longer existed, as most of my electives were through the federated universities as well. I even messaged one professor through LinkedIn. I was that desperate.
My English credits took a long time to transfer over. By the time they did, I had already enrolled in classes and had to switch all of them again due to the fact that I had signed up for classes that I had technically already taken.
No one told me what POSt was when I first started at UTM. I thought that when I accepted my offer in one program, I could just declare another major and continue on with my studies. When I went to declare my second major (CCIT), I was denied. In frustration, I dropped the CCIT courses I had enrolled in.
Three days before classes started, I got an email from CCIT Undergraduate Program Coordinator Truc Tran saying that, “Given the circumstance with Laurentian University, I have spoken with the ICCIT Director on how we can accommodate your interest in Communications. If interested, we will permit you to take 200-level CCT courses concurrently with CCT109 and CCT110 during the Fall/Winter session.” I tried to get back into the first-year courses I had dropped, but they had a waitlist of over 40 people.
To top it all off, not all of my credits transferred with me. Because of differences between the universities in course content, I only got half the credit for some courses. This was frustrating because they would have counted towards my final credit total needed to graduate. I currently have 12.5 credits at U of T, when I really should have 14.0.
I met Kyle Saunders in my second year. Kyle was in their first year studying radiation therapy and was roommates with two of my best friends. Coincidentally, Kyle also transferred to U of T after having their program cut too.
“I wish [the insolvency] never happened. I’d much rather be at Laurentian.” Kyle explained that Laurentian took care of their transfer credit application but left them on their own after that. Radiology at U of T differs from Laurentian because Laurentian is a straight from high school four-year program, whereas U of T requires a prerequisite year prior to their three-year program. Kyle is essentially in first year “because they told me that all the things I did at Laurentian are only good for checking off the prerequisite year checkbox.”
Kyle said they could not have taken a year off due to a bursary from his province and the promise of a job after they graduate. If they did, they would jeopardise the bursary. “I didn’t really have a choice,” they said.
I’m aiming towards a specialisation in English and a minor in Professional Writing, which I can’t enrol in until Spring 2022. Being a third-year student and wanting to graduate on time, it’s not a viable option for me to take an extra year to receive a qualification in CCIT. As much as it makes me nervous to not have a degree that is seemingly crucial to my future career path, I’m hoping that I’ll be able to make up for it in experience or in a future master’s degree.
It’s definitely been a whirlwind of stress and uncertainty. I don’t regret my choice of transferring. I do miss my professors and my friends, but I have made a great group of friends so far who have been showing me the ropes around UTM and met professors who are incredibly passionate about what they do.
My experience should be a warning to other Ontario students. The news says that Covid-19 pushed Laurentian over the edge. Who knows what will push other universities over the edge. I just hope you learn from my story.
Staff Writer (Volume 48) — Lexey is in her third year as an English Specialisation and Professional Writing minor. She previously was Editor-In-Chief of Laurentian’s student newspaper The Lambda and is currently the UTM Bureau Chief for The Varsity after transferring. When she’s not writing articles, she’s most likely studying in a cafe or hitting the slopes. You can connect with Lexey on Instagram and Twitter.