KSA advocating for better access to scholarships for students with disabilities

Students with fewer than nine credits in a semester are ineligible for scholarships and honour roll

Jaya Dhillon, the KSA Disability Rep. (file photo)

Jaya Dhillon, the KSA Disability Rep. (file photo)

The Kwantlen Student Association is advocating for changes to be made to the full-time requirements for students with disabilities that prevent access to Kwantlen Polytechnic University scholarships and inclusion on the Dean’s Honour Roll. 

“Our ask is that KPU and all other universities change their policies to six credits recognized as full-time status for disabilities students, those who are registered with the accessibility department,” says Jaya Dhillon, KSA Students with Disabilities Rep and VP of University Affairs. 

When it comes to the Dean’s Honour Roll, Dhillon says there are several students with disabilities who have done exceptionally well in courses and have a high GPA but are not recognized for that because they don’t have the nine credits for that semester. 

Universities in B.C., including KPU, recognize six credits as meeting full-time requirements for students with disabilities when they are applying for full-time student financial assistance through StudentAid BC. 

“A 40% course load (the equivalent of 6 credits of study for most Kwantlen students) is considered full-time only for students with an approved permanent disability and an approved appeal for a reduced course-load,” according to KPU’s Student Awards and Financial Assistance government funding

“The registrar’s office and accessibility department will not provide any documentation or letter to confirm the student’s study status, so essentially we are seen as part-time,” Dhillon wrote in an email to The Runner

If students with disabilities don’t get full-time status, this poses challenges for those who need documentation from the university to gain access to benefits that other full-time students are eligible for, such as a free bank checking account, insurance, and grants, says Dhillon.  

South Surrey MLA Stephanie Cadieux has reached out to Dhillon to have a conversation about her concerns, which Dhillon says should take place by the end of November. 

Credit requirements aren’t the only concern for Dhillon, who says she would like to see KPU look into other areas where it can accommodate students with disabilities, such as providing staff to help those who experience difficulties with taking notes.

“The professors are required to give out the lecture notes as stated in the accommodation letter,” wrote Dhillon in the email, but most of the time she said the notes are PowerPoint slides from the lecture. 

Students have to notify their professors of their need for a note-taker during the class. At most universities, note-takers are student volunteers who want to help those with disabilities, but Dhillon says most often, no one volunteers at KPU.

Dhillon is a KPU President’s Diversity and Equity Committee member and part of the Disability Inclusion Group. Through the Disability Inclusion Group, Dhillon has been able to raise issues facing students with disabilities to Romy Kozak, KPU Director of Diversity. 

“So we’re having discussions with them, we are having meetings with them … we are planning to have a conversation with the accessibility department and just talk about challenges. I don’t think they really realize what’s actually happening, from our point of view.”