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University of Waterloo | Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Wednesday, March 18, 1998

  • It's the wrong kind of money
  • What kind of a president?
  • Offering help to high schoolers
  • On a day of icy rain
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It's the wrong kind of money

While bursaries for needy students go unclaimed, UW is falling behind in the competition to attract top academic performers with scholarships, a front-page story in today's Gazette explains:
Buoyed by an influx of funds from tuition fee increases, bursaries at UW have mushroomed from a measly $44,000 per year in 1996 to $2,400,000 by last fall. And much of the money has remained unused by students. In the meantime, UW has dropped from sixth to eighth place in the province in awarding academic entrance scholarships, designed to lure "the best and brightest" to its programs.
The story by Barbara Elve quotes kinesiology professor Ian Williams, long-time chair of the senate committee on scholarships and student aid. A dramatic shift in the student aid picture has come in the past two years, he says, because of two 1996 policy changes from the Ontario government.

First, the province launched the Ontario Student Opportunity Fund, and promised to match money given to a bursary trust fund established at each university between May 1996 and March 1997. UW managed to pull in $3.2 million, which the government matched for a total of $6.4 million in endowment funds. Only the interest that accumulates will be used for bursaries, but going from $44,000 to half a million dollars a year is significant, Williams says. The first of these OSOTF bursaries -- based primarily on financial need -- are available for the 1997-98 academic year.

The second change in 1996 was tied to tuition fee hikes. Universities were allowed to raise their fees by 10 per cent, but required to place 10 per cent of the increased revenue into bursary funds. With all students paying into the fund through tuition fees, it amounts to a tax on wealthier or better-funded students to benefit their less-fortunate fellows, Williams says.

The bursary fund generated some $771,000 that year, and some 473 bursaries were awarded, averaging $700 each. Another $300,000 in unused funds was carried forward into the next year. "There was the capacity for more awards if students had applied," said Williams.

In 1997, universities were again allowed to increase tuition fees by 10 per cent, but were required to place 30 per cent of the new revenue into a bursary fund, along with the set aside required in 1996. Adding in the carry-over amount, the total for bursaries generated by tuition increases rose to about $2,400,000 by last fall. UW awarded 1,050 entrance bursaries last September of $1,000 each, and other handouts followed. At last count, though, $350,000 was left. And the fund will grow by several million dollars more when fees are raised again this year.

Other universities are doling out similar funds. "It's a very competitive game," Williams says. However, he goes on, UW isn't doing so well in the scholarships part of the competition, the business of giving money based on merit, to attract academic stars to Waterloo. "UW struggles to offer attractive entrance awards to students," he says, "but there's growing evidence that we look bad." In a survey of academic entrance awards of over $1,000 for 1995-96, UW ranked eighth among Ontario universities.

In math and engineering, entry scholarships are funded primarily by endowment funds developed by the faculties, but the majority of entrance awards for the other four faculties come from the Senate Scholarship Fund, which receives donations from faculty, staff and retirees. The university matches those donations at a rate approximately 95 cents on the dollar. "Scholarship programs are therefore dependent on the level of giving on campus," says registrar Ken Lavigne. For the undergraduate division of the fund, donations for 1995-96 were $90,750; $67,546 for 1996-97; with $72,320 pledged for 1997-98.

Discussions are under way, he said, to develop strategies to increase scholarship funds, giving UW a competitive boost in its ability to attract academic achievers.

What kind of a president?

The presidential nominating committee has issued this memo to the campus:
As directed by Policy 50, the Presidential Nominating Committee has begun to solicit the opinions of the members of the University with respect to the institution's fifth President who is expected to take office July 1, 1999.

One of the ways in which the Committee has decided to seek out that opinion is to invite the submission of written comment to the Committee. While the Committee would be pleased to receive all comments you may wish to make, it would particularly invite your thoughts on the following questions:

Written comments and opinions should be submitted to the Committee through the Secretary of the University, Lois Claxton, Needles Hall, Room 3060 on or before May 15, 1998. If you prefer to make your comments orally, please feel free to contact any member of the Committee.

This invitation for comment is one means by which the Committee will solicit the views of the University community. Any information or comments provided to members of the Committee will be held in confidence by the Committee.

Offering help to high schoolers

You can find out about opportunities for mentoring at-risk high school students in the local community at an information session tomorrow about a new program called BUDS. The meeting runs from 5 to 6 p.m. Thursday in Davis Centre room 1302.

BUDS is a UW "student education advocacy organization", explains organizer Sarah Kamal. "We strive to encourage youth in our community to continually better themselves through valuable and rewarding educational experiences. Learning through friendship forms the basis of our support network." A pilot project is to start this fall. Kamal explains further:

The secondary school education system is suffering in many respects in Ontario. While we have no solid empirical evidence to back our observations, anecdotal evidence from teachers, principals, and professionals in the education field suggests that educators are currently hard pressed to deal with the overwhelming number of issues they face on a daily basis. Turmoil caused by the changes to the secondary school system such as the abolition of the OAC year and the phasing out of specialized programs have made it more and more difficult for teachers and administrators to provide support and help for students needing extra attention.

As individuals who have had the benefit of continuing onward to post-secondary institutions of learning, we realize that we are particularly favoured with opportunity and the chance for developing our potential, and would like to contribute to supporting others in their journey towards increased knowledge and awareness.

So how can students help? Some can be "mentors", putting in four hours a week: "You will be paired with an at-risk youth from a local high-school, and will devote several hours every week in one-on-one sessions with them as a friend and mentor. You will be responsible for understanding and promoting the mission and values of BUDS, offering support and understanding for teens who are struggling in school due to outside influences, and providing help for the student in any possible and reasonable manner. . . . You will be trained to be able to deal with some of the situations that you may encounter in the course of your mentoring."

Others can be tutors, who put in two hours a week at a drop-in centre, "providing academic support to high school students after school hours. However, since the Drop-In centres are designed to provide a comfortable and supportive learning environment for a wide cross-section of teens within the host school, tutors may encounter situations in which they may have to provide emotional support to teens. Also, following the BUDS philosophy, Drop-In Centre tutors will be encouraged to help out in extra-curricular activities at the school (as their schedule permits), in order to encourage students, through their presence, to strive for greater goals through post secondary education."

For more information, BUDS can be reached at ext. 5757, e-mail buds@calum.csclub.

On a day of icy rain

Are there issues that shouldn't be talked about in the classroom? "Censorship in classrooms" is the topic today as the UW Debate Society holds a formal afternoon event, and everyone is welcome to gasp at the rapier wit, heckle just a little, and maybe take away a few new ideas on a subject of importance. "We will be using the Canadian parliamentary debating format, the most common format at university-level debates," says Amit Dubey of the society, who doesn't mention whether there will be flags on the desks or not. There will, however, be free refreshments. Today's debate starts at 3:30 in Math and Computer room 2066.

Other events today:

Tomorrow, the career development seminar series continues with "Interview Skills: Preparing for Questions", at 1:30 p.m. in Needles Hall room 1020.

Finally, more news of well-deserved riches: this month's winner in the Dollars for Scholars raffle was drawn yesterday. And the lucky person is . . . drum roll . . . MaryJane Wilson of information systems and technology.

CAR


Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
credmond@uwaterloo.ca | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
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