In a gesture of support for its Juris Doctor (JD) students who are experiencing financial hardship due to COVID-19, Osgoode Hall Law School of York University has announced that it will commit $1 to $1.5 million to assist those students over the next 18 months.
The Osgoode student relief plan will see up to $500,000 of the law school’s surplus funds made available in the current (2020-21) academic year to students in all three years of the JD program. An additional amount of up to $500,000 will also be available in the upcoming (2021-22) academic year.
The decision to offer the financial assistance follows on the heels of a report by the Law School’s Working Group on Tuition Fees that detailed student concerns about the economic effects of the pandemic, particularly unexpected expenses associated with learning from home and loss of employment opportunities. “Students were placed under increasing pressure by the fact that the Law School was closed and that this would increase the costs of adjusting to the new status quo,” said the report’s authors.
The seven-member working group – comprised of students, staff and faculty including a representative from the Dean’s office – concluded that some relief to students was both desirable and possible.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has financially impacted many of our students,” said Osgoode Dean Mary Condon. “We know that they are having challenges as a result of all of the ways that learning is being transformed. We want them to know that we are doing our very best to support them through these difficulties.”
The first $500,000 will be distributed to students by the end of March, Condon said.
“The way it will work is that all students who received a fall bursary will automatically receive an additional top-up of either $500 or $1,000, depending on the level of their fall bursary assessment,” Condon said. “In addition, students who did not apply for a fall bursary, or who applied and did not receive a fall bursary and have experienced financial hardship directly related to COVID-19, will be invited to apply for assistance and, if eligible, will receive $500 each.”
Condon said this is not the first time that the law school has provided financial relief to students who are feeling the economic effects of the pandemic and the overall financial burden of attending law school.
Last September, the Osgoode was able to ease some mental and economic strain by creating a $250,000 fund to assist returning JD students who had lost income or had unexpected expenses since March 15, 2020 that were directly attributable to COVID-19, she said.