A Canadian bank has stepped in to temporarily save an elite high-school research co-op program that faced an abrupt termination after a funding dispute with the Ontario government.
CIBC will donate $50,000 needed to keep the program operating through the second semester of high school. The program is run by The Foundation for Student Science and Technology (FSST), a non-profit.
The Globe and Mail reported last week that the program was being cancelled because of a lack of government funding, leaving about 30 students in the lurch, with some concerned about earning enough credits to graduate on time.
The co-op program pairs gifted or exceptional Grade 11 and Grade 12 students with professionals in the fields of science, tech, engineering, arts and math. The students spend time researching a topic and doing literature reviews with the help of their mentors, while earning high-school credits.
“We are inspired by the students and the interesting things they are doing," CIBC spokesman Tom Wallis said on Thursday. "We hope our support this semester will help them achieve their research, education and career ambitions, while also contributing to the development of future leaders in Canada’s services economy.”
The Ontario government had provided $50,000 to FSST for the fall academic term. Ingrid Anderson, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Education, told The Globe in an e-mail statement last week that it was “clearly communicated” to FSST that it was a one-time payment meant to cover the entire school year.
However, FSST executive director Jacques Guerette said the contract with the government was only for the first semester. As the school year unfolded, he said that his organization spoke with the ministry about continuing the program. He was in the midst of submitting a funding proposal for the second semester and summer term when news of the abrupt withdrawal of government support led the FSST last week to inform students about the program shutting down. Many were scrambling to find another course to make up for the lost credit.
Mr. Guerette said that soon after the story ran in The Globe, he was contacted by CIBC about keeping the program intact for the semester, as well as exploring mentoring and internship opportunities at the bank for students. The program also received two private donations of $1,000 each, he said.
“This was very surprising, very pleasing. I think our students are going to be ecstatic that they can finish their coursework and get their credits,” Mr. Guerette said on Thursday. “This is important, not just for the kids, but for the province and the country.”
More than 450 students in Ontario have earned credits in the online program since its inception about six years ago. Mentors have been drawn from across Canada and internationally, from as far away as Brazil.
Mr. Guerette said that while he is pleased that CIBC’s donation will allow the program to continue until the end of the school year, he also believes it should be publicly funded.
“It gives some runway to keep the program going and see how else we can help stabilize things,” he said.