AMS partners with OUSA on financial aid survey

Country-wide survey has received 2,500 responses so far

The AMS shared the nation-wide survey with students on April 5.
Journal File Photo

As the academic year comes to a close amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the AMS is pledging focus on financial advocacy for students impacted by the pandemic. 

In a new survey about the financial impact of COVID-19 on students, the AMS has partnered with Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance (OUSA) and student associations across the country to better represent students to the University and the federal government. The AMS shared the survey with students on April 5.

“Not only have students lost jobs for the remainder of the school year, but we are hearing that students across Canada are losing summer employment as well,” William Greene, AMS vice-president (University Affairs), wrote in a statement to The Journal

As both school year and summer employment help students afford rent, tuition, and other living expenses, the AMS is concerned students might not be able to continue their education without being forced into significant debt.

According to Greene, the AMS is also concerned about graduating students who are trying to secure long-term employment.  

“These are issues that no one anticipated and they present very real long-term threats to our peers,” Greene wrote. “We want to ensure that students are given the support and stability that they need right now. It’s important to us that students get the same support as many others within our country.”

The stories and data collected from students across the country will be taken to the federal government to demonstrate where students are “falling through the cracks” in financial aid packages, according to Greene. In collaboration with other student associations, the survey has received more than 2,500 nationwide responses to date.

“Although everyone across the nation is suffering, students are facing specific hardships that the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) guidelines are currently unable to mitigate due to eligibility requirements,” Greene wrote. “We will be sending letters and emails with the data we’ve collected to identify trends and share stories with the goal of helping the government understand our specific concerns.”

For students who worked as part-time staff for AMS services, the Society has developed a bursary to offset some of the financial hardship caused when the services closed earlier than expected in March. Greene wrote that applications are currently being reviewed for fund allocation.

Aside from addressing potential financial challenges, Greene said the AMS is working to provide students with academic support, a “proper” convocation, and greater access to mental health resources.

Regarding mental health, the AMS has increased the amount of psychology coverage offered in the student health and dental plan for the upcoming academic year. 

“We understand that this pandemic will be placing significant strains on the mental well-being of our peers and it is essential that we have plans in place to address this,” Greene said.

The AMS is also launching more marketing around the Empower Me mental health support program to encourage students to access the service’s free professional counselling while practicing social distancing. 

He also mentioned that the AMS executive has been connecting with their SGPS counterparts to assist their efforts in advocating to the provincial government for greater supports directly aimed at graduate students.  

“As Queen’s students, we pride ourselves on our sense of community,” Greene wrote. “Now, more than ever, we need that community to be strong and united.”

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