Kiss Your Scholarships Goodbye

Question: What happens during a time of economic downturn to a public university that relies on private funding ? Answer: It loses money. Lots of money.

UBC’s Endowment, which is meant to provide sustainable funding to the University, has been generated predominantly by donations and the construction of market housing on campus. At other universities in Canada, which have smaller endowments than UBC’s, it’s already been projected that some will lose up to $100 million in endowment funds. Expected losses at UBC are unknown at this point, but President Stephen Toope has said that it will be considerable.

What does this all mean for students? Basically the decimation of student financial assistance and awards. The Endowment funds a lot of student scholarships, fellowships, and bursaries. It is projected that as much as 20% or more of the $9.6 million in endowed awards will be lost. Toope’s “Letter to the UBC Community” is hardly reassuring, saying that despite this loss, the University’s commitment to deliver financial support to students is unwavering.

But take a look at the numbers. According to Board of Governors’ reports, financial assistance for needs-based support (like bursaries) has been declining since 2005. In fact, if you take into account enrollment and inflation, support has dropped by 43% over that time period. Meanwhile, tuition increased. How is that unwavering support? It’ll be a start if UBC makes up for the loss of endowed student financial assistance through other sources, but I wouldn’t be too optimistic.


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