Mount Allison students feel discouraged by the university’s scholarship and bursary program. Many incoming students who have received entrance scholarships lose them within their first year of study. The Registrar’s Office stated that they do not track statistics of scholarship retention.
Tina Oh, vice-president external affairs for the Mount Allison Students’ Union (MASU), said that despite the lack of statistics, most students are already familiar with difficulties in retaining their scholarships. “We don’t even need to find the statistics for it because of the fact that we’ve all lived it,” she said.
The MASU’s External Affairs Committee is working toward creating a bursary, from the union’s budget surplus, to balance what they say is the inaccessibility of the university’s financial aid program.
The registrar’s office states that a 3.7 GPA is required to retain an entrance scholarship, a standard that is equivalent to the 80 per cent average required for high school students to initially qualify for the scholarships.
According to Oh, Mt. A ignores that there is much more to student life than academics. Especially with so many transitions at the beginning of university, Oh said, “it’s extremely unreasonable to hold such a high GPA in your first year.”
To keep a scholarship, students are also required to take five courses per semester. For those students who need to work during the school year, it is not always possible to keep a full course load. Oh said that while the university gives out a lot of money in the form of entrance scholarships, there is not a sturdy financial aid program for students after their first year of study.
Scholarships for upper-year students are far more scarce than entrance scholarships. To be eligible for a Mt. A scholarship, students must not currently hold an entrance scholarship, must be taking a full course load and must keep a 3.7 GPA. Qualified students are automatically considered, but only the top students in each program are awarded a Mt. A scholarship, which makes it inaccessible to many.
Fourth-year commerce and economics student Kathleen Cowie graduated from high school with an average above 90 per cent but lost her scholarship in her first year at Mt. A. She applied for bursaries each year but was always rejected despite not having enough money to pay for school.
“Good part-time jobs for students are very hard to find [in Sackville],” Cowie said. “I am up to six little part-time jobs right now and that is just going to contribute to rent and food.”
Fourth-year history and geography student Cassie Eveland, who left high school with a 93 per cent average, also lost her scholarship in her first year. Eveland worked two full-time jobs in the summer after her first year, but was still unable to cover tuition costs. She then got a job at McDonald’s, where she works an average of 36 hours per week.
“Working so much does take away from my study hours, but if I didn’t work, I wouldn’t have enough money to go to school,” Eveland said.
The MASU hopes to help alleviate some of the financial stress that students experience by creating a needs-based bursary. While there is no money set aside in this year’s budget for this bursary, Oh will be presenting this resolution to MASU council for approval. If approved, this bursary will come into effect next school year. Meanwhile, the MASU will keep advocating for the university to make financial aid more accessible to students, especially returning students.