Laurier School in the Community Pillar Two - Access to University

By Heather Montgomery, as seen in the June 2016 issue of Good Works News 

Laurier and The Working Centre are partnering to offer an Access-to-University program.  This certificate program will support non-traditional learners, (including first-generation students, New Canadians, Aboriginals, older workers and those living on limited income), to build the capacity and confidence to access university, as well as, build foundations for further education and personal development.  The program, made possible by a three-year grant from the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation, provides supported access to university credit courses for non-traditional learners in a non-threatening, community-supported setting. 

The Access to University Certificate, will provide introductory university-level courses specifically designed to enhance critical learning skills while supporting non-traditional learners and social inclusion. The certificate is comprised of a preparatory phase, and five university courses offered over a two-year period.  The preparatory phase and the first university course will be offered in TWC spaces in downtown Kitchener, with supported transition to Laurier’s Waterloo campus in the second year.  

Building upon grassroots education projects currently available through The Working Centre, this project offers non-traditional adult learners the opportunity to engage in further learning with the potential to lead to full-time university education.  The Lyle S. Hallman Foundation grant will provide student bursaries that cover the costs of tuition and textbooks, as well as, bus passes to support student transportation needs.  The grant also provides funding for the university to offer smaller class sizes, and funding for The Working Centre to dedicate staff time and resources to provide educational and life-stabilization supports to students throughout the program. 

The preparatory program offered at The Working Centre will support participants to make informed choices to attend university, build confidence with the expectations of a university curriculum, and increase the likelihood of success. Group learning activities will bring participants together to prepare and apply for university, and also improve access to other learning opportunities.

The five university courses are offered with smaller class sizes, coaching/tutoring supports, and supports for navigating the administrative processes of the university.  Students who successfully complete the Access Certificate will have 2.5 full university credits and the option to transition into other university programs.

A smaller scale version of the program was piloted this past year, with tremendous success.  We offered the preparatory program during the fall term, and one university course during the winter term.  The students found the program very rewarding, and many are excited to continue with their studies through this new certificate program. One student shared with us how participating in last year’s preparatory phase gave them the confidence to apply for (and successfully obtain) employment in an area that before the program, they hadn’t even considered.

This project bridges gaps that leave people out of a university education, integrating the financial, educational, career, and stabilization supports necessary to achieve success.  Throughout the certificate program, people will be supported to establish their own academic directions and taught skills for navigating the various aspects of a university education.  Participants will develop skills that will benefit them in multiple ways, regardless of whether they take more university or college courses.

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