LA&PS bursaries, awards support access to university


A series of bursaries and special programs created by York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS) will help students overcome financial obstacles to attaining a university education.

These programs and bursaries provide a lifeline for students at risk of abandoning their studies, and include an emergency fund developed with the support of alumni and faculty members.

In addition to emergency bursaries, the Helen McRae Liberal Arts Bursary (HMLAB, formerly the Steps to Arts program) supports incoming applicants who faced personal crises during high school that negatively impacted their entrance grades. These applicants would normally be excluded from admission, but due to an alternative admissions appeal process – a collaboration between LA&PS and Student Financial Services – they are given an opportunity to prove their qualifications.

“One of our student recipients of the HMLAB was diagnosed with stage four non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and went through chemotherapy during her last year of high school,” said Sarah Burley Hollows, manager, Student Academic Affairs, Achievement & Awards in LA&PS. “She wasn’t able to attend school or work to save for university. This bursary helped alleviate her financial burden and allowed her to focus on her academics. She’s now studying criminology because she wants to create human rights legislation one day. Students like her are forever grateful for the opportunity our donors have given them to pursue their education without barriers.”

In addition to these special awards and bursaries, many LA&PS students have accessed other University-wide programs to help them continue their studies, such as the Emergency Covid-19 Student Relief Fund.

“Many of our students have benefited from the Covid-19 Emergency Fund. We’re pleased to see York’s leadership investing energy and financial resources in this area which is so important for students,” said Michele Johnson, associate dean, Students in LA&PS.

Additionally, through York’s Sanctuary Scholars program, the University admits a limited number of qualified applicants who are refugees from conflict or facing persecution in their country of origin. Similarly, bridging programs have also helped students overcome structural barriers to university admission. The Women’s Bridging Program, offered by the School of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies since 1981, has helped hundreds of women upgrade their writing and speaking skills and explore the possibility of university study.

The Bridging Program for Internationally Education Professionals (IEPs) recognizes the potential of globally trained newcomers and enables them to acquire skills, gain local insights and formulate a network to find employment. The Bridging Program for IEPs was recently awarded more than $1 million over three years, in recognition of its success and to support its continued growth.

“These programs are modest compared to the size of our student population, but we are working on scaling them up especially given the challenges of our current global situation,” says J.J. McMurtry, dean of LA&PS. “Our focus is always on student success. Providing excellent services to all our students is critical, and we do that. However, we also recognize that there are special situations in which we need to provide supports to help students overcome an unforeseen financial gap that has arisen through no fault of their own. These are people with the ability to succeed at York, but life has thrown them a curve. We want to provide them the opportunity to get back on track with their studies and build successful lives.”

For more information about the student access programs offered by LA&PS, email