What is MESA?

In the spring and summer of 2005, the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation negotiated a series of agreements with provincial governments to deliver a set of bursaries (known as "Access Bursaries" to first-time, first-year undergraduates from low-income families. These agreements are all broadly similar though eligibility criteria vary slightly by jurisdiction (section 1, below, describes the Access Bursaries as they exist in each province). Students do not need to apply for the award separately; instead, they are automatically considered for the award through their application for provincial student assistance.

At the same time, the Foundation put to public tender a major research contract to evaluate the impact of the access bursaries and to answer the following four questions:

  1. Who are the low-income teenagers that decide to pursue PSE and how do they compare to low-income teenagers that decided not to pursue PSE?
  2. Does providing more funding in the early years of PSE serve to attract more students from low-income families into PSE?
  3. Does providing more funding in the early years of PSE contribute to increased persistence rates among low-income students?
  4. Are there regional differences among students from low-income families across Canada?

The winning proposal, which was put forward by the Educational Policy Institute and the School of Public Policy at Queen's University, proposed answering these questions in three main ways:

  1. By examining, longitudinally, the student aid administrative files of both recipients of the Access Bursaries and those who narrowly missed the criteria, and by developing and administering a survey to this same group of students and then subsequently linking the survey and the administrative file.
  2. By more fully exploiting existing databases such as Statistics Canada's Post-Secondary Education and Participation Survey (PEPS) and the Youth in Transition Survey (YITS), the Longitudinal Administrative Database (LAD) and the Enhanced Student Information System (ESIS), in order to examine the effects of student assistance on PSE participation (both in terms of access and persistence); and also exploring the possibility of linking he LAD-ESIS to the student aid administrative files mentioned above.
  3. By conducting a random assignment experiments involving extra financial resources for low-income students and tracking their progress thereafter.
The project, which subsequently became known as the Measuring the Effectiveness of Student Assistance (MESA) Project, was designed to take roughly four years to complete, with a final report to be produced in late 2010.

In late 2009, EPI Canada was replaced by the Canadian Education Project.

In summary, the MESA project can be characterised by the following:





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