The cost of education is crippling young Canadians
TELUS Friendly Future Foundation® launched a $50-million TELUS Student Bursary fund - the largest bursary fund in Canada - to help students committed to changing their communities, despite experiencing financial need.
Editorial by Ashi Mawji, Board Chair, TELUS Friendly Future Foundation (as appeared in The Globe and Mail on October 19, 2023).
This fall, our family watched our eldest son head off to his first year of university. This milestone meant a lot to me as a parent. The importance of education in enabling young people to not just learn, but to grow and explore the possibilities of all that they can be cannot be understated.
Unfortunately, for too many young people in Canada, the milestone of starting college or university is also a time marked by financial stress. Attending a post-secondary school these days is a major financial undertaking, with the average Canadian undergraduate leaving post-secondary school heavily in debt.
Add soaring housing costs, food, educational materials and transportation and we’ve got a pending crisis on our hands. Reports suggest that 75 per cent of students find it hard to afford post-secondary education, while the crushing weight of debt has nearly a third of students considering dropping out.
This is unacceptable. In a rapidly evolving world, there is no shortage of challenges for young people to overcome and they need our help now more than ever if they are to realize their full potential and pursue their dreams.
TELUS Friendly Future Foundation is working to help address this need, with the launch of our TELUS Student Bursary. Created through a $25-million endowment from TELUS, along with an additional $25-million commitment in fundraising from the Foundation, making it the largest student bursary in Canada. The TELUS Student Bursary offers financial assistance to deserving young people across the country who are facing financial barriers and are committed to giving back in their local communities. In addition to financial support, the program provides other wraparound support including free or discounted mobility and internet plans through TELUS’ Mobility for Good® and Internet for Good® programs and mentoring, networking and other career development opportunities during their school years and after graduation.
We’ve already awarded bursaries to more than 200 students across the country—all of whom are giving back to their communities in positive ways, a key differentiator of the bursary program. In all, we expect to award bursaries to more than 400 students this year, and look to expand that number as we move forward. It’s our way of saying we believe in the boundless potential of our youth and the transformative power they hold.
It’s been inspiring, and humbling, to read through the many applications and bear witness to the intellect, perseverance and compassion behind each individual journey. Clementine Jarrett is one example of an exceptional youth and first-round bursary recipient.
At 19, Clementine is beginning her third year of studies at Carleton University in Ottawa, pursuing a double major in human rights and social justice, and women and gender studies. Both subjects are close to her heart. As a child taken into foster care at nine, Clementine is the embodiment of resilience and strength. She has achieved a hard-fought dream of attending university, and is maintaining a near-perfect GPA. Her ultimate goal is to attain a PhD and radically transform the child welfare system—helping better enable the safety and dignity of children in care and ensure the next generation has a different experience than she did.
But her journey remains an uphill battle. With no family or external support, finances are a continuous struggle. The bleak reality is that for every 1,000 Canadian youth in the foster care system, only eight graduate with a post-secondary degree.
Clementine is exactly who the TELUS Student Bursary is designed to assist. If we can help relieve some of the financial burden, we know she can remain focused on her school work and dreams for her future.
In her own words: “Having the support of organizations like TELUS Friendly Future Foundation is one of the major reasons I am still in school. I have wanted to attend university ever since I was a child and, through immense determination, have made that dream come true. The kernel of that belief is based in the pain and hardship I have experienced and not wanting any other youth to experience it. If we don’t encourage education and personal growth, we miss out on the changemakers of tomorrow and the talent that is needed to really change the world. We owe it to these kids to help them flourish.”
Supporting students like Clementine is not something we at the Foundation want to be doing on our own. We welcome every business, big or small, every school, every leader, and every Canadian to join us in empowering our youth, across all socio-economic backgrounds. It doesn’t take much to make a difference. Together, we can ensure a brighter, more inclusive future for all, while also making a positive difference in our communities.
The next student bursary application window will open in spring, 2024. To learn more, visit friendlyfuture.com/bursary