Increasing access through financial aid and outreach

Increasing access through financial aid and outreach

Changes to Queen’s financial aid distribution and expanded community connections are helping connect more students with postsecondary education.

By Communications Staff

June 26, 2023


Photograph of Peer Equity Ambassadors speaking at an outreach in Regent Park
Queen's Peer Equity Ambassadors and the Access and Inclusion Team speaking at an outreach event in the Regent Park neighbourhood of Toronto.

The first 100 recipients of the university’s new Major Access Award will be starting their studies at Queen’s this fall.

These awards provide $10,000 to $18,000 per year for four years to incoming undergraduate students with the highest financial need. The university announced the new awards last year as part of a transformation of financial aid programs designed to increase access to a Queen’s education.

“An offer of admission to Queen’s recognizes academic achievement. These awards enable more of these academically strong students to attend regardless of their socio-economic circumstances,” says Ann Tierney, Vice-Provost and Dean of Student Affairs. “We are prioritizing need-based funding to help increase access to the university for students from underserved communities and enhance the diversity of our student population, which broadens and enriches the experience of all students. Every year, incredibly talented students decline our offer because of financial barriers. This intentional shift in our financial aid programs aims to make it possible for more students with offers to say ‘yes’ to Queen’s.“

Queen’s has made this level of support available by restructuring financial aid for first-year students. Previously, approximately 70 per cent of an incoming class received $1,500 to $4,000 for one year based on their grades, which totalled approximately $9 million. Starting in the fall of 2023, approximately $2 million will be distributed to the top five per cent of the class in each program, based on secondary school grades, with each recipient granted the $7,000 Principal’s Scholarship. The $7 million difference has been allocated to need-based aid, including the Major Access Awards.

“We are providing significant and sustained funding to our highest-need students because we know that large, predictable, and renewable support is what enables them to accept their invitation to join our community,” says University Registrar Tracy Al-idrissi. “This is part of our institution-wide commitment to support more students with high financial need so they can choose to attend Queen’s.”

Access and inclusion recruitment efforts

The new financial aid structure is only one of the ways in which Queen’s is building on its longstanding commitment to increase access to the university. The Access and Inclusion Team in Undergraduate Admission and Recruitment has been expanding connections with students, families and community agencies in underserved communities to promote the First Generation Admission Pathway and options for financing a Queen’s education.  The team is now working with 22 community organizations across the GTA, and in Hamilton and Ottawa. 

On May 4, the team spoke with prospective students and their families about the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) and financing post-secondary education at an event held by Pathways to Education in the Regent Park neighbourhood of Toronto. More than 100 students, supporters, and members of community organizations attended the event, which was suggested by Pathways staff to raise awareness of all of the financial aid programs and supports available. Queen’s Peer Equity Ambassadors who grew up in Regent Park were on hand to speak with the prospective students and share their journey to Queen’s and their lived experiences.

“We have increased the number of first-generation students we worked with by more than 450 per cent this year, and many of them went on to apply to Queen’s,” says Richard Mitchell, Manager, Access and Inclusion, Undergraduate Admission and Recruitment. “Most importantly, our team has become a resource for these students, helping them navigate the post-secondary education landscape in general. While we love it when they choose Queen’s, we’re also happy if they take what they learn from us and use it to pursue the transformative opportunity of postsecondary education somewhere else. The main thing is we’re helping them see their educational goals are in reach.”

Of the 61 First Generation Admission Pathway applicants who received ongoing support from the team through this year’s admission cycle, 50 received offers of admission to Queen’s.

Access and inclusion programs and bursaries

In addition to the Major Access Awards, Queen’s suite of access and inclusion awards includes the Promise Scholars program, Commitment Scholars Award, and Commitment Bursaries.

The Promise Scholars program is a comprehensive initiative designed to reduce financial barriers and increase access to Queen’s for first-generation students from Kingston and the surrounding counties of Frontenac, Lennox and Addington, Leeds and Grenville, Hastings, and Prince Edward. Five Promise Scholars awards are available, providing $60,000-$100,000 over four years depending on the program. This year, Queen’s received 57 Promise applications from 39 schools.

The Commitment Scholars Award celebrates and recognizes demonstrated leadership in, and commitment to, racial justice, social justice, or diversity initiatives by equity-deserving students in their high school or in their community. Ten renewable awards are available, providing $12,000 per year. Each year, Queen’s has received approximately 300 applications.

The Commitment Bursary funds up to $5,000 per year are available to students who self-identify as a member of an underserved or underrepresented group and demonstrate financial need. In 2022-23, more than 300 students received this support, which will total more than $935,000 over their four years of study.

Admission Bursaries are also available to all first-year students with financial need, with awards of up to $7,500.

Learn more on the Undergraduate Admission website and the Registrar and Financial Aid Services website.

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