Assessing student financial need
By Sabrina Carinci
Universities' latest attempt to better understand the financial needs of their students has come in the form of a survey.
Queen's University, Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, the University of Toronto, Western and York University are each involved in a study of students and their current financial circumstances.
Susan Stowe, a research analyst at the Institute for Social Research, the organization responsible for collecting and analyzing the information, said the objective of the study is to focus on the costs of university and the different ways which students meet the increasing costs of attending post secondary institutions.
"The results of the study will be a positive thing because universities will be better able to allocate [money] to students," she said. "I don't think anything negative can come out of it."
The 10-page surveys, which were mailed out at the end of October, are estimated to return to the institute by January, when the information can then be analyzed and printed.
According to Stowe, each institution will receive a copy of the anonymous final report as well as a detailed analysis of how the students from their institution responded to the survey. "It's important because people from U of T don't want people at Western to see them in a different light."
Stowe said the institute began planning the survey this past summer and in late August a memo was sent to all Ontario universities asking if the institutions were interested in participating. "Some couldn't meet the deadline and some didn't want to pay the fee," she said.
Although not all Ontario universities are participating in the study, Stowe believes there are enough students from each university participating that a fair generalization can be made.
James MacLean, a planning analyst in the department of institutional planning and budgeting at Western, said he was responsible for providing the names and addresses of the sample group from Western.
"It was stratified by year and program, so 400 students from each year were chosen from a random sample," he said. MacLean said his department also helped to provide various questions to the institute.
Karel Swift, the registrar at the University of Toronto, said they were extremely pleased to participate in the survey because of the benefit it would pose to the university. "The survey met a particular need for us. We have a new policy it promises student funding for school and it commits us to doing surveys so that we can make sure education is accessible for our students," she said.
Despite this particular survey, Swift said the University of Toronto would probably still complete their own surveys anyway.
Linda Grayson, VP-administration and student affairs at Ryerson, said the study is important because it includes more than half of the undergraduate students in the province. "We'll have some very powerful information," she said.
Grayson added Ryerson's major objective in participating in the survey was two-fold. "We want to have hard data on student needs and informed lobbying with the government," she said.