LONDON, ONT. -- COVID-19 is expected to change post-secondary learning in the fall semester, leading some students to opt for a ‘leap year.’

Jameson Eaves just graduated from high school in London, but has chosen to return to his old stomping ground for Grade 13.

“With the uncertainty of universities right now…the online classes, return to campus, [Ontario University Athletics] cancelled most of their fall sports seasons. I think it kind of just solidified it for me, like hey, I’ll just stick to the original plan, go with Grade 13, wait it out and see what the next year brings,” said Eaves.

Fanshawe College and Western University are offering a blend of how courses will be delivered for students come fall, matching the rules and regulations put forth by the Middlesex-London Health Unit’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Both post-secondary institutions will offer online courses and face-to-face instructions when viable.

Vice President of University Affairs for Western’s student council, Victoria Barroso, said that online learning will be an adjustment for any student.

“Being able to work alongside the university and the professors to elevate student concerns with respect to what September will look like, will be based on the feedback we received with how the transition was back in March…to ensure that students are having a good experience in regards to their education."

The University Students’ Council (USC) requested student feedback and found that one of the top concerns from current students was affordability.

Eaves said that affordability is also a huge concern for new students who are committing to a multi-year undergraduate degree or diploma.

He spoke to many of his friends who are also students who see the financial deficit caused by COVID-19 making it a bit more difficult to commit come September.

“People are getting reduced hours, losing jobs. Can I even get a job now? Can I save up for university for that first-year tuition?”

Anna-Marie Musson, a lawyer at Musson Law Firm said that her firm has received multiple calls from parents who are struggling to afford tuition this year.

“In regard to tuition fees…some of the fees are being offered, but some parents are being expected, or are even under court orders, to pay tuition fees based on their income from last year, which was before COVID...This was before they were potentially laid off or before they are earning a lot less.”

Musson said that courts are open but they are only taking high-priority cases, which likely won't include tuition cases.

Musson also added that parents are struggling with student residences being closed on campuses around the province, which could lead to some students choosing a leap year.

The USC’s survey asked current students if they were going to return to Western this year. According to the survey, 90 per cent of current students are planning on returning.

Anne Campbell is a fourth year student who said she is still excited for her final year and will try and help others feel connected whenever possible.

"I look back at my last three years and one of the reasons I came to Western was that sense of community, and so even though things are going to look significantly different in the fall…I think a lot of students can find that sense of support during this difficult time."

Barroso said that students’ concerns are top priority and she hopes to help students have a positive transition this fall through the lens of COVID-19.

“The university has put in place the Thriving Foundations program, where students will be able to come to the university in the summer and experience Western's campus…we are looking at our orientation program, adjusting that so students are able to interact with each other online and small groups wherever thats possible.”