By Vanessa Greco
Joel Vautour moved from Moncton to Toronto three years ago. A pricey move, coupled with residence costs and tuition fees, came close to breaking the bank. Most other Ontario universities would have given him an entrance scholarship of at least $1000 for his 82 per cent high school average, but not Ryerson. He was not an Ontario high school student so he did not qualify for the award.
“It’s like saying I’m a second-class student,” Vautour said.
He was offered a $1000 scholarship from the University of Moncton but opted to attend Ryerson for the prestigious RTA program to follow his dream of a career in broadcasting. But it’s not just Vautour that is getting the short end of the stick. Although Ontario high school students still have more access to entrance scholarships than their Canadian counterparts, there’s still some students left in the dark.
Even fresh-faced Ryerson applicants coming straight from high schools in Ontario are told that the minimum grade needed to be considered for an entrance scholarship is 80 per cent. But not all programs have these guaranteed scholarships.
Competitive scholarships are offered in certain programs that attract too many high-flying hopefuls. Limited financial resources mean Ryerson can only offer entrance rewards to a handful of the highestscoring applicants. And unlike the guaranteed scholarship, competitive awards are a one-time deal — they are not renewable. The limited availability of scholarships can mean that bright students can be lured away from Ryerson by the promise of big money from other schools.
But Charmaine Hack, Ryerson’s director of undergraduate admissions and recruitment, said this scholarship structure is necessary because the university only has so much funding available.
“The challenge for any university is to launch a scholarship program that is impactful and financially supportable,” Hack said. “For Ryerson this requires some variations of what is available by program.”
It was a shock to Christina Massad, who’d worked hard throughout high school.
The effort spent maintaining her 89.5 per cent average wouldn’t be recognized by Ryerson. Although the third-year journalism student stuck around, she believes some might choose to attend universities who offer more entrance scholarships.
“Ryerson could be turning away major talent,” Massad said.
Ryerson is particularly falling behind in attracting talent from out-of-province. Every other university in Ontario aside from Ryerson offers guaranteed entrance scholarships to all Canadian high school students, except for the new University of Ontario Institute of Technology Brock University extends this offer to international students that meet the guidelines for guaranteed scholarships and Lakehead University offers free tuition for the first year to high school students with a 95 per cent average. The scholarship can be renewed for the next three years, if the student maintains an average of 85 per cent.
At Ryerson, a 95 per cent average can bring in $4000. And a high average is worth even less if you are an out-of-province student.
“We don’t have the resources financially to expand the program nationally,” said Hack.
Other universities have increased starting averages for scholarships to attract the best students, but Hack doesn’t know whether Ryerson will take that step. Additionally, some of our most prestigious programs offer the least cash. Many of these competitive scholarships are for programs that have non-academic requirements like midwifery, social work and architecture.
And the Faculty of Communication and Design does not have guaranteed scholarships for first year students out of high school.
The number of competitive scholarships are based on recruitment strategy and the size of the program, said Hack. Smaller programs such as acting receive fewer scholarships than larger programs.
Once the number of prizes has been determined, they are distributed to the top students in each program. This exclusive cash could have helped Alisa Chung pay rent at her apartment.
The third-year theatre student had a mid-80s average in high school but couldn’t get a cent out of Ryerson. “More entrance scholarships should be guaranteed,” she said. “Many talented students juggle school and work because money is always an issue.”