When the Ontario government offered a 10 per cent tuition cut to postsecondary students, Queen’s Student Aimee McCurdy said that she couldn’t enjoy the savings knowing that many students had their OSAP funding drastically cut or eliminated.
According to the Ontario Government, the cuts would reduce the average university arts and science undergraduate student’s fees by about $660.
In addition to Ontario’s colleges and Universities losing an estimated $440 million in funding, many students who rely on OSAP to fund their education say the changes will make it difficult or impossible to afford school.
McCurdy doesn’t rely on OSAP to pay her tuition, so she decided to donate her 10 per cent tuition cut to a Queen’s student who did.
“I wouldn’t have wanted my tuition to go down at the expense of people who really needed help with their tuition,” McCurdy said.
There weren’t any charities she could donate to where Queen’s students who rely on OSAP could receive it directly, so she decided to make her own.
In a January 2019 Facebook post on the Overheard at Queen’s page, McCurdy described her plans to create a charity to donate her 10 per cent tuition cut, and called on others to do the same.
“If more people in a similar financial position as I am were willing to donate, we would be able to significantly help low-income and lower middle-class students at Queen’s who have just as much a right to an education as anyone,” McCurdy said.
Over the following months, McCurdy worked with the student awards office and created Students for Students, a non-political student-run organization at Queen’s University attempting to combat the cuts by donating to the Queen’s General Bursary, a non-repayable grant available to students with financial need. According to McCurdy, funds donated will be automatically distributed among students who are receiving OSAP and eligible for financial assistance.
During the 2018-2019 school year, 18 per cent of Queen’s students came from families with an income of less than $50,000 per year and had 100 per cent of their costs covered by OSAP in grants. The SFS website states that there are also many students in dire need of financial assistance who don’t meet the free tuition criteria.
The SFS website cites Queen’s as having the lowest population of students receiving free tuition proportionate to total student population.
“We are in a much better situation than most schools,” the FAQ page reads. “We have the ability to help.”
“This is a great peer leadership initiative that reflects the generosity and public-mindedness of our students,” said Teresa Alm, Associate University Registrar (Student Awards) at Queen’s University. “We congratulate Aimee and her peers for starting this donation drive to support students in financial need.”
McCurdy encouraged others to use their privilege to make a difference by investing in the future of the Queen’s community.
“The people who need help are right here at home,” said McCurdy. “They are at your school, they sit beside you in Stauffer, they’re in your classes, they are your neighbours, your TAs, your friends, or even your roommates.”
While McCurdy is optimistic about the bursary, she cautioned that students pledging their tuition cuts may not be enough.
“If you calculate the amount of people that are actually able to donate 10 per cent, it wouldn’t necessarily bring things back to where they were,” said McCurdy. “Part of our plan is to try and get sponsors and bigger donations.”
According to the SFS website, 100 per cent of the donations will go directly into the bursary with “$0 going to administrative costs.” The grants will begin to be distributed in September 2019.
Information on the Students for Students program can be found on the SFS website.
To donate, visit the Queen’s Bursaries webpage.
To learn more about the Queen’s General Bursary, visit the Student Awards website.
For inquiries about bursary eligibility, contact the Student Awards Office at [email protected].