McMaster University takes a lead on financial wellness in Ontario

As a leader in advocating for the financial wellness of students, McMaster University is committed to providing education and resources for students, right from the moment they receive their offer of admission.
September 28, 2017

By: Elizabeth DiEmanuele

Originally published in the McMaster Daily News

Financial support for students is about to get better, thanks to the Net Tuition Project. As part of a financial wellness initiative implemented by the provincial government, post-secondary institutions across Ontario will now provide a more transparent breakdown of educational expenses and resources, as well as more opportunities to receive funding.

Students can now access their net bill and have a better sense of how much they owe; net bill includes all non-payable aid from grants, bursaries, and scholarships. Incoming students also have access to their net tuition upon their offer of admission, so that they can make informed financial decisions. Net tuition is the full cost education after tuition, grants, bursaries, and scholarships; having access to this information allows prospective students to compare and contrast financial options across institutions.

“The new Ontario Student Grant program provides more upfront grant funding to students,” says Leanne Ruiz, Manager of Student Financial Aid and Scholarships. “Students also have the opportunity to only accept the grants and waive the loan funding. Increased grant funding decreases overall student debt upon graduation.”

Liz McDonough, Coordinator of Customer Service at Student Accounts and Cashiers, adds, “We are seeing much less traffic in the Student Accounts office this year and we believe it’s because of three things. Students are using online payment services; Mosaic was more user-friendly; and most importantly, the Account Summary was made available through Mosaic this year.”

As a leader in advocating for the financial wellness of students, McMaster University is committed to providing education and resources for students, right from the moment they receive their offer of admission. This year, for instance, Mac’s Money Centre hosted their second Smart Start workshop in June 2017, where over 250 incoming students and their parents took part in a workshop session about building a realistic financial budget and plan for University, while also opening larger discussions about money. More recently, screens about the Net Tuition Project were created and displayed across the Student Centre in time for Welcome Week, so that students could better understand their expenses and resources the moment they arrived on-campus.

“If you think about it, when students leave home for the first time, they are forced to be financially independent and responsible,” says Gina Robinson, Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Director of the Student Success Centre. “All of a sudden, students are faced with managing their day-to-day expenses while also juggling academic pressures and work. It’s a lot to handle, which is why we’re here to help.”

“We think incoming students and parents were better informed this year due to awesome McMaster programs like Smart Start and Orientation Week,” McDonough adds.

Mac’s Money Centre is a resource that is unique to McMaster University. Responding to survey results that revealed finances as a top three stressor facing McMaster students, Mac’s Money Centre formed as a resource to help students become better equipped to handle financial challenges; it is now a partnership between the Student Success Centre, Catholic Family Services, Student Financial Aid and Scholarships, and Student Accounts that offers free workshops, one-on-one coaching, tax clinics, and speaker’s events for students.

In addition to workshops and one-on-one appointments available throughout the year, Mac’s Money Centre will lead McMaster University’s digital campaign for financial literacy month. Throughout the month of November, students will have access to a number of talks and social media discussions about myths and truths about money management. Students can also look forward to money topics related to careers.

“What students perceive usually comes from what family and friends think, which might be wrong,” says Robinson. “It is important to set the record straight.”

One of the November guest speakers will be Rob Carrick, a Personal Finance Columnist for the Globe and Mail and author of How Not to Move Back With Your Parents. Robert will offer students a perspective of what to do while they are in school and financial mistakes to avoid, as well as insight into the many decisions students will make when they graduate. This event will take place on Tuesday, November 7, 2017.

To attend a workshop or book an appointment with a Money Coach, register on OSCARplus.