Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Government-Sponsored Bursaries: Examining Financial Support for Residents to Study at Home

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Higher Education

Government-Sponsored Bursaries: Examining Financial Support for Residents to Study at Home

Article excerpt

Introduction

Governments have a vested interest in increasing accessibility to higher education in order to improve social and economic outcomes in society. "In most countries, especially developed ones, higher education generates a significant part of a country's stock of skilled labor" (Viaene & Zilcha, 2013, p. 78). For many governments, higher education is a key economic development tool that can assist in growing skills and innovation in a jurisdiction. It has been said that higher education confers numerous benefits both to the individual and to society, including higher earnings, lower rates of unemployment and government dependency, an increased tax base, and greater civic engagement (Marope, Wells, & Hazelkorn, 2013). As higher education is a public good, governments also have an interest in managing funding to higher education institutions to ensure affordability and accessibility for its citizens.

The aim of this paper is to explore the impact of a government-sponsored bursary program in a provincial jurisdiction, Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada. This paper explores the perception of the George Coles bursary program ("the bursary") by resident students attending the home university institution and examines the impacts on participation and conversion following the implementation of the bursary at that institution. PEI has only one university-the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI)-and, as such, it provides an interesting case study on university access. The George Coles bursary program was created by PEI's provincial government to "keep residents at home" by providing a financial incentive of $2,000 in 2008, which was subsequently increased to $2,200 in 2012, for first-year resident undergraduate students who attend the home institution. A secondary goal was to increase accessibility to higher education through a reduction in first-year tuition for direct-entry high school students. The program has not been evaluated since its inception.

The purpose of this paper is to

* examine the home institution's eligible (resident) students' perceptions and awareness of the George Coles bursary,

* assess changes in participation, enrolment, and student loans to the home institution since the bursary was instituted, and

* propose options related to the bursary for policy makers and administrators in order to improve resident retention and accessibility.

This study is important as it can assist in identifying methods to improve resident participation while supporting institutions to be sustainable. It can also help policy makers and senior administrators evaluate options regarding the appropriation of funding to both institutions and students that address the priorities of both government and institutions.

Background

The University of Prince Edward Island ("the home institution") is the only university in the province of PEI (population 146,283; Statistics Canada, 2015). Economic development is a challenge for Canada's smallest province, as it competes with many other larger, more diversified economies and labour markets to attract and retain a talented workforce. In less than 45 years, PEI's median age gradually increased from 24.8 to 43.3 (Prince Edward Island Statistics Bureau, 2014). Although PEI's recent economic growth rate is 0.5%, interprovincial out-migration of its population has continued to be a problem. Net interprovincial migration has been negative nine times in the last 10 years (Prince Edward Island Statistics Bureau, 2014). Youth out-migration, for both work and education, has continued to challenge the province's economy and has become a focus for policy makers.

The provincial government seeks to mitigate this out-migration of youth and human capital through the development of policy initiatives related to higher education. The introduction of the George Coles bursary is one such program aimed at young residents to retain them in their home province during their higher education studies. …

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