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Requests for Proposals

​​​​​Requests for Proposals

​​​​​​​​​​The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) supports evidence-based research within the scope of its mandate from:

  • Postsecondary research institutions and their affiliated institutions;
  • Public or non-profit organizations; and
  • Other individuals or organizations.​

Below are listed all current requests for proposals (RFPs) issued by the Council.

Read HEQCO's ​RFP submission instructions

HEQCO Access and Retention Consortium 2.0

Invitation for Expressions of Interest 

The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) invites interested colleges, universities and other education or community organizations to submit expressions of interest to join the HEQCO Access and Retention Consortium (ARC). The consortium is a collection of educational organizations that are evaluating the use of interventions designed to improve access, retention and success into and through PSE for underrepresented or disengaged students. HEQCO is interested in answering the following question: What works in supporting underrepresented and disengaged students to access and succeed in postsecondary education? 

One of HEQCO's central research priorities is to improve access to higher education. Our goal is to ensure that by 2025 every Ontario student has an equal opportunity to attend and succeed in postsecondary education and that participation and graduation rates for underrepresented groups will equal those of the most advantaged groups currently well represented within our colleges and universities. 
Many institutions have programs geared toward increasing postsecondary accessibility and improving retention rates among underrepresented students. However, evaluation of what works and dissemination of those results to the wider community is less common. HEQCO is interested in working with institutions that want to evaluate and demonstrate effective programs and interventions. 
Priority will be given to projects that: 

i) Evaluate an existing tool, program or approach related to access or retention
ii) Scale up interventions that have already been shown to work
iii) Involve a partnership that may include colleges, universities, school boards, community and other education organizations
iv) Focus on low income and/or Indigenous students 
v) Focus on building skills that help students access and persist in PSE 

Expressions of Interest

Expressions of interest should address the following areas and be no longer than two pages.
1. Project Description — A short (one to two paragraph) description of your proposed project as it relates to the research questions above. Please be sure to include the methodology you plan to use in evaluating the intervention.

2. Prior Experience — Briefly describe your institution's rationale for its interest in this initiative. Please illustrate your institution's experience with developing and implementing access and retention programs, tools and/or initiatives. 

3. Project Management — Identify the roles and responsibilities of those who would be involved in the project. Identify someone at the senior academic leadership level who will oversee the project's administration, and a person who will provide expertise. Please highlight the experiences of both individuals in similar validation/evaluation initiatives.

Deadlines and Submission Instructions

Applicants must submit their expression of interest to Helen Tewolde, Manager of the Centre for Equitable Access, at by June 30, 2017 at 4:00 pm EDT. Any questions should be emailed beforehand to HEQCO will thoroughly review all submissions on a rolling basis. Successful candidates are expected to work with HEQCO to define project details. Participation will be formalized with a contract that is acceptable to both parties.

The Access and Retention Consortium (ARC) was launched in 2013 and is currently made up of six educational institutions. ARC has accomplished a great deal in the past four years, including,

Building a community of practice;
Creating and validating access and retention tools that are flexible and reliable;
Fostering discussions about the evaluation of the effectiveness of access and retention programs;
Developing a body of knowledge about access and retention initiatives in Ontario;
Enabling knowledge sharing and collaboration to improve evaluation techniques.

While current members of ARC continue their work, HEQCO aims to build on the previous work of the consortium and tackle emerging challenges and opportunities in access and retention. For information on ARC I please click here or visit and follow the link to the Centre for Equitable Access and then to the ARC webpage.

​Download a printer friendly version of the Invitation for Expressions of Interest

Social Media Scan of OSAP Perceptions

RFP Number: 17/18-RFP-002
Proposed Budget Range of RFP: Maximum of $80,000
Issue Date of RFP: Thursday, May 4, 2017
Deadline for Questions or Clarifications to RFP: Thursday, May 18, 2017 by 4:00 pm EDT
Proposal Submission Deadline/Time: Thursday, June 15, 2017 by 4:00 pm EDT
HEQCO Contact for Enquiries Regarding RFP:  
The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO) is an independent agency of the Government of Ontario that conducts research and provides objective advice to government to improve the accessibility, quality and accountability of Ontario’s public colleges and universities. HEQCO employs a multifaceted research approach to inform the implementation of meaningful policies that improve postsecondary education in Ontario, Canada and around the world. 

As a government agency, HEQCO supports research that has an impact on policy makers, postsecondary institutions, students and the public. With this in mind, please describe in your proposal the dissemination strategy that you plan to use to share the results of your research. Please be as specific as possible, listing the avenues you will use, the communities you hope to target and the impact you hope your research will have.

Description of Assignment
Equitable access to postsecondary education is a research priority for HEQCO and a key focus for the Government of Ontario. Despite significant strides made in overall enrolment and attainment levels over the past several years, financial barriers continue to be one of the most persistent obstacles for students considering postsecondary, especially those who come from low-income households.

The Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development (MAESD) is currently midway through a two-phased reform of the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP), designed to make postsecondary education (PSE) more accessible, affordable and cost transparent. The most significant changes include the introduction of net-tuition billing and free tuition for students whose parents make less than $50,000 per year.

A key indicator of success in the OSAP transformation will be the impact on Ontarians’ perceptions of PSE affordability. Results from HEQCO’s earlier work in Willingness to Pay for Postsecondary Education Among Under-represented Groups​ (2010) conducted by SRDC show that underrepresented students, including those from low-income households, tend to be more loan averse and perceive the costs of PSE to be high relative to its benefits. Therefore, these students will often find PSE to be unaffordable and not enrol. One main objective of the OSAP reforms is to clarify for students that the true cost of attending postsecondary is actually lower than what many perceive it to be.

HEQCO is putting forth a series of RFPs seeking to evaluate the impact of OSAP’s transformation on students’ and parents’ perceptions of PSE affordability. This RFP invites proposals for a study that utilizes big data from social media sources to examine perceptions of PSE costs, student financial aid services and, specifically, the new policy changes affecting OSAP. The study can make use of sources like Twitter or Reddit and employ data mining or machine learning techniques to perform sophisticated analyses of the data.

Research Questions:
Applicants are invited to submit proposals for a study that explore the questions of how student financial aid is perceived in Ontario and if communications about OSAP are reaching the intended audience. Applicants should consider the following questions in their study:

  • What topics of discussion coincide with discussion of OSAP? Which components of OSAP are the most or least talked about?
  • What is the tone of discourse surrounding OSAP?
  • What are the characteristics of social media users who talk about OSAP? Do certain sub-groups of social media users hold particular ideas or perceptions of OSAP?
  • How do perceptions of OSAP change following important dates, announcements of policy changes or news coverage of related events?
  • What information is circulating about OSAP? Is this information factually correct? How does factually incorrect information affect perceptions of the program and the affordability of PSE?

The final report (approximately 40 pages) should be submitted within eight months following the RFP closing date.

Download the full RFP Response Template

​Read the Questions and Answers