Queen’s sees $2.6 million uptick in entrance scholarships

Report points to COVID-19 grade freezing in Ontario secondary schools

Graduating high-school student averages have increased since the start of the pandemic.

Queen’s has surpassed its budget for spending on merit-based scholarships for the second year in a row.

The University spent over $8.5 million for the Principal and Excellence Scholarships in 2021-22, according to the University Budget Report for 2022-23. This number was $2.6 million over the projected yearly budget for the two scholarships.

The report said “a sizable amount” of scholarship funding comes from the University’s Operating Budget, and the rest comes in the form of philanthropic contributions from alumni, donors, or “friends” of the University.

According to the report, the “unprecedented increase” was partly due to the policies Ontario secondary schools introduced in response to the academic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

After the shift to remote learning in March 2020, schools informed students their grades would not go down.

“It is possible this single focus approach resulted in strong academic students excelling at an even higher level than has occurred in previous years, further driving up admission averages,” the report said.

In 2020-21, school boards across Canada introduced various policies to high school curriculums and delivery patterns. The measures impacted students who started at Queen’s in 2020 and 2021. 

Heather Campbell, director of education at the Rainy River District School Board, told The Journal that schools had a “do no harm” approach to assessment after the switch to remote learning. 

“In other words, students could only increase their marks, not decrease them,” Campbell said. 

Many students in the district could not take advantage of this policy due to device and connectivity challenges, Campbell said. 

The modifications varied between school boards across Ontario, according to Mary Mancini, superintendent of education at the Lambton Kent District School Board (LKDSB). 

In LKDSB, students’ final marks were based completely on semester work, rather than the typical model of 30 per cent exam/summative work and 70 per cent semester work.

The change in evaluation breakdown was due to the “unique challenges” students and staff faced throughout the pandemic, Mancini said.

The Ontario government mandates minimum spending on scholarships through the Student Access Guarantee (SAG) program.

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