New scholarships generous to wealthy students

Sobeys has generously donated $2 million to our beloved institution. This is wonderful, amazing, spectacular, and every other adjective they’ve used to describe this donation. It is not, however, perfect.

King’s, the defiantly liberal 224-year-old university, has come into money.
Sobeys has generously donated $2 million to our beloved institution. I think it’s safe to say this qualifies us as rich.
And this money isn’t going to build a gold-plated pool in the quad (now there’s a thought…). No, this money is going to help the students. Power to the people!
This is wonderful, amazing, spectacular, and every other adjective they’ve used to describe this donation.
It is not, however, perfect.
The accessibility of the scholarships is my first major concern. On the surface, it seems like a fair deal; a monetary reward for academic and extracurricular excellence with a strong focus on wooing students from the Atlantic provinces. That last part is especially appealing due to the high-level of out-migration in this part of Canada.
While the scholarship may appear as a positive outreach to students who cannot attend university, to me it heavily favours the typical upper-middle-class branch of students.
The demand for academic excellence is an understandable and acceptable requirement; as a university, we should want the best and brightest. Even if low-income students seem disproportionately more likely to score lower academically than upper-class students, this is not a requirement that I believe we would want to change. The lack of opportunity for low-income students is a disgusting occurrence but not one that universities need to tackle, at least not on their own.
The requirement for extracurricular activities is where this scholarship favours upper-class students. A study by the Center for Advanced Studies in Madrid reveled that upper-class parents spend nine-times as much money on sports, music and extracurricular activities for their children than low-income parents. This means that upper-income students have far more opportunities to meet the extracurricular requirements than low-income students. There are certainly exceptions, undoubtedly, but by and large, this scholarship, well-intentioned I’m sure, favours wealthy students.
My other issue with this scholarship is the open courtship of private business into our university. All over King’s, you can see posters for the Education is a Right campaign. Our KSU has supported countless protests to support keeping business out of education. But when push comes to shove, who do we turn to? Sobeys, who I am sure are nice people, but they are a corporation. Our KSU, who likes to talk about education separated from business, were all too happy to promote the reveal of the scholarship on Facebook and pose with Donald R. Sobey for a photo-op.
Now, I’m not a starry-eyed idealist. I know that our philosophy of “education for all” and “business-free” has to encounter reality eventually. One hand washes the other and all that. I just wish our KSU could be that open with us.
I know people will disagree with me on this. I’ve been told that this scholarship will benefit all of us. If King’s boosts its enrolment, its prestige shines all the brighter, which improves the perception of our degrees. I’d be more inclined to agree with this logic if King’s didn’t have one of the best journalism programs is Atlantic Canada and a country-wide respected philosophy program.
How much more prestigious can King’s be?
I’m not ungrateful for the money. I just think we shouldn’t be blinded by its sheen.

By David J. Shuman

David is the current editor-in-chief of The Watch and writes on student issues and events. Find him on Twitter: @DavidJShuman

One reply on “New scholarships generous to wealthy students”

I’d qualify as low-income and I do rather well in school as do many of my fellow low-incomers, thanks for stereotyping. Fact is to get into King’s you must be reasonably academically inclined and I have not problem earning my scholarship/bursary/grant money with hard work. I don’t want to be a charity case. I don’t need rich people to feel bad for me. I’d rather earn my way than have it given to me. Education is a right, that is primary and secondary education and if you are from low-income you can find a number of resources to help you offset the costs of post-secondary school. It’s not free for us low-income folks, nor should it be.

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