With the economy still limping along, Ryerson University is giving struggling students an economic bailout of their own.
Alongside an investment of $2 million for scholarships, awards and new students bursaries, the university is investing $1.8 million to hire more students as teaching assistants and boosting funding to $2.7 million from $2.4 million for its work study program to allow more students to be hired as research assistants and for part-time jobs.
Ryerson president Sheldon Levy said the most important thing about making more money available to students was ensuring that no one who got into Ryerson for the coming academic year would feel compelled to drop out because of financial reasons.
“Universities generally have the responsibility to ensure that it’s the quality of mind and not the size of the pocketbook that gains admission. We don’t want any student to not attend because of pocketbook reasons,” Levy said.
Levy says the influx of cash is not intended to draw more students to the school but rather to make it possible for current students to follow through with their education — the school had 70,000 applications for just 5,000 first-year spaces this year alone.
“This is not a recruitment device; I don’t want anyone to think that. This is to ensure students have a maximum chance of being successful at university and have the financial means to be here,” Levy said.
Adding to the investment by Ryerson is a $1-million gift by the Birchall Family Foundation to create the William and Catharina Birchall Bursaries program, giving out 75 bursaries between $2,500 and $5,000 each to students attending Ryerson this year. The gift represents one of the largest expendable gifts ever given to the school.
Catharina Birchall says she set her heart on creating the bursary gift when she heard from her own daughter, a Ryerson student, how many of her classmates were considering taking on multiple jobs alongside their studies or even dropping out because of financial pressures.
“These students should really be focusing on their future. Education is necessary to participate in our society and it shouldn’t just be for high achievers. Right now in this economic situation we need to encourage kids to get an education that can help them get a job,” Birchall said.