Board of Governors - APPENDIX III - November 25, 1999



Administering Student Financial Aid - A Presentation by Dr. Roma Harris, Vice-Provost & Registrar

At the invitation of the Campus and Community Affairs Committee, Dr. Roma Harris, Vice-Provost & Registrar, made a presentation to the Committee's meeting of November 8, 1999, outlining current practices in administering financial aid to students of the University.

At the earlier Public Meeting of CCAC on October 4, 1999, a delegation from the Hippocratic Council of the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry made a presentation on Tuition Fees for Medical Programs. In that presentation the Council reiterated its concerns that current levels of tuition would contribute to significant debts upon graduation for medical students and again asked that tuition fees in the program be frozen at present levels. Representatives of the Council also asked that a proposed $1,500 fee for medical residents, which has been approved by the Board in 1998 but subsequently rescinded at the time of the Board's approval of the 1999-2000 operating budget, not be reintroduced.

The Council also said that its research was indicating accessibility for low and middle income families and for students from rural backgrounds was being affected as a result of deregulation of medical tuition fees. A survey they conducted produced data suggesting that reported family incomes are higher on average than was the case before tuition fee deregulation.

The CCAC, in its report to the Board of October 28, 1999, noted that the arguments put forward by the representatives of the Hippocratic Council with respect to tuition fees for students in Medicine and for residents will be taken into account when the administration's recommendations for tuition levels for 2000-2001 are known. The CCAC expressed its appreciation to the Hippocratic Council representatives for their timely presentation and confirmed that the administration's recommendations on fees for all programs will be made public for discussion purposes in January or February 2000.

In their presentation to the CCAC, the Council representatives also raised a number of concerns about access by medical students to financial aid from the University. The CCAC asked Dr. Harris to provide an update on student financial aid, with a particular focus on assistance for medical students. She and her staff made a comprehensive presentation to the Committee on November 8, 1999. The highlights included:

The overall goal of the financial aid program is "to ensure that students have the financial means to enter and complete their intended program of studies at Western".

The Financial Aid Services division of the Registrar's Office uses a standardized assessment of financial needs and works with individual students to identify financial solutions that meet their needs.

Financial Aid Services processes and administers the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), the tuition set-aside fund, and private and endowed bursaries. The delivery of both OSAP and disbursement of set-aside funds are audited by the Province.

8,058 students on the main campus are receiving OSAP. All are eligible to be considered for additional financial assistance.

108 medical students (28%) have no debt at all; 277 students (73%) have no bank debt; of the 103 who have bank debt, the average debt is $19,171.

272 medical students have an average OSAP and bank debt of $31,816

A median projection for the class of 2002 indicates total OSAP and bank debt on graduation of $58,838 for medical students and $70,053 for dentistry students.

At this point, the total financial aid available to Western students (all programs) is $9,053,000, of which about $7 million is from the tuition set-aside fund (the 30% of tuition fee increases that the Province requires to be disbursed to students in need).

The set-aside funds are disbursed either as work/study payments ($4 million) or need bursaries ($3,053,000). A further $2 million is available from private or endowed bursaries.

It is projected that medical and dental students this year will receive $1,552,153 from the bursaries and set-aside pool of funds, or 22% of the amount available, although medicine and dentistry students represent only 6% of the total undergraduate population eligible for aid from the tuition set-aside.

At the October CCAC meeting, the Hippocratic Council representatives had criticized the timing of notification to medical students of amounts of aid they would receive. The Registrar reported that all who applied by August 1 were notified by the end of August, as had been promised. In some instances, students who requested aid were asked to supply additional financial information and invited to meet with a financial aid counsellor. Those who chose not to do so may have been denied an award.

It is the view of the CCAC that while the Hippocratic Council has a legitimate concern about increasing debt levels for medical and dental students, the Financial Aid Services division of the Registrar's Office makes a special effort to disburse as much as possible of available set-aside funds and bursaries to those in need. There are simply not enough funds to meet the full needs of all students. Therefore, students are expected to tap all financial resources, including personal lines of credit, to meet their expenses while at Western.

The CCAC was advised that discussions are ongoing between members of the Financial Aid Services office and medical and dental students to deal with their individual and collective concerns.