New matching gift program will mean up to $4 million a year for York students

On Nov. 9, the provincial government announced a new initiative that will create more bursaries to improve postsecondary access and promote student success. Through the new Ontario Trust for Student Support (OTSS) program, $50 million will be made available to universities and colleges in Ontario every year to assist students in financial need. York is eligible for up to $4 million in matching funds per year through the new program.

The reality of life for two-thirds of York students is that they must work part-time to afford the cost of an education and the cost of living — an additional $8,000 per year for students who live on their own. Some students work so hard outside of school that they miss out on the full university experience, forgoing a role in a play or a spot on the football team because rehearsals and practices interfere with one, or in some cases, two part-time jobs.

While York student and financial aid recipient Amy Hu (left), is busy pursuing a specialized honours degree in psychology, she is equally immersed in campus life.

As a student senator, Hu is focused on making the campus a better place. She also co-founded the Pre Law Society (one of York’s 240-plus student clubs), which helps undergraduate students apply to law school. Since its founding in 2002, club membership has grown from 20 students to 200.

“One of the greatest things about York is that as an undergrad, you can really get involved in so many different activities and every layer of decision making,” she says. “This is the most valuable education a university can offer.”

Hu, who immigrated to Canada with her family from Taiwan when she was 12, is the recipient of financial assistance, which provides her with full tuition for up to four years. It has made all of the difference. Without it, she would have had to fund her own tuition, which would have meant fewer courses taken per year and significantly less involvement on campus.

For every York student like Hu, who benefits from a scholarship or bursary, many more are struggling to complete their degrees.

Replacing the highly successful Ontario Student Opportunity Trust Fund (OSOTF) program, which ended last March, the OTSS will match dollar-for-dollar private and corporate cash donations used by colleges and universities to set up endowment funds. Investment income generated by these funds will support students well into the future. To be eligible for an OTSS-matched scholarship students must be permanent residents of Ontario and demonstrate financial need. Academic merit may also be factored in when student eligibility is being determined.

“The new trust will increase access and opportunities for students, expand fundraising capacity at our colleges and universities, and promote a culture of giving to support students,” said Chris Bentley, minister of training, colleges and universities during his public announcement of the new initiative.

York University raised a total of $6.3 million through the second phase of the OSOTF program, far exceeding the University’s target of $4.7 million. The new OTSS program will allow the matching of these eligible but “stranded” gifts. Encouraged by the availability of matching funds, many donors enhanced existing endowments or created new funds in support of students. These donations helped contribute to the 58 per cent increase in the number of donors to York over the last three years, as well as the 79 per cent increase in overall revenue generated by the University.

“I congratulate the government for making increased support for students a provincial priority,” said Paul Marcus, president and chief executive officer of the York University Foundation, in response to the government’s announcement. “Through the OSOTF program York University witnessed a tremendous response from donors. Now, through the OTSS, York’s ability to again raise funds specifically for financial assistance has been enhanced considerably.”

For more information about OTSS or about giving to York, contact Barry Wilding, chief development officer, Division of Student Services at ext. 58157, or visit the York University Foundation Web site.

This article was submitted to YFile by Allison Berg, communications officer, York University Foundation.