Queen’s financial aid changes

At a time when the issues surrounding student financial aid are receiving more attention, the University Senate has recently approved the final report prepared by the Task Force on Student Financial Assistance outlining several recommendations — many of which have come into effect this academic year.

The mandate of the 11-member task force - which is a sub-committee of the Senate Committee on Scholarships and Student Aid - was to review the allocation and distribution of student financial assistance at Queen’s within the context of prevailing government policy and to generate clear guidelines for decision-making in all areas of student aid.

Teresa Alm, associate registrar, student awards, says the task force’s research and recommendations are critical in ensuring students’ financial needs and concerns are being addressed as effectively by the University as possible.

“The task force [report] reaffirms what practice has been, and makes new recommendations... With the high profile of student assistance we wanted to examine what we at Queen’s have practiced historically and whether or not that is relevant for today,” she said.

“We’re really looking at the past, present and future [of student assistance].”

According to Alm, while many of the recommendations are still being discussed many important changes will benefit students beginning this year. They include:

•The Office of Advancement encouraging unrestricted donations in support of student financial assistance;

•The creation of a new entrance award for international undergraduate students as part of the task force’s recognition that, “the traditional focus of financial assistance at Queen’s and at other universities on domestic full-time students undermines the University’s commitment to diversity of student population, academic pursuits, faculty and research;

•New communication strategies to educate and inform the university community of costs and opportunities for financial assistance available at Queen’s, such as the task force insert in the September 25 issue of The Gazette.

When asked about the likelihood of the more major changes being implemented in the future, such as extending aid to longer term graduate students and the adoption of a “means blind admission policy”, ensuring all competitively qualified domestic and international students have the opportunity to pursue a degree at Queen’s, Alm emphasized the over-arching goals of the task force.

“[Many of the task force’s recommendations] are part of a longer term project, and something that requires a great deal of thought and consideration by the Senate committee... One of the things that the report did was bring greater awareness [and] clarity to some of the issues surrounding student financial assistance... The report is being put in The Gazette is an indication of the efforts being made in increasing communication,” she said.

In addition to attempting to increase communication with students on the resources available to them on campus, Alm said part of both the task force and student awards initiative is making student aware of the costs of the university education prior their first year of study.

“I think students coming from high school find it hard to understand what $12,000 to $15,000 actually means... We’re also trying to help parents understand what $12,000 to $15,000 means.”

Alm indicated that one of her chief concerns was that students are largely unaware of the resources offered on campus for students’ struggling to cover the costs associated with a university education.

“If a student is an emergency situation, come into our office... We have resources available [such as] financial counselling, and we have an emergency bursary available for specific emergency cases. It’s important that we get this information out now because this is the time of year to plan.”

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