Fourth-year St. Thomas University student Sam Crowell doesn’t think much of eating dinners of Mr. Noodles, eggs, and fries, or spending more nights at home than he used to. It’s typical of a student to just scrape by. The problem with this, as Crowell learned, is there’s no rainy-day fund when you’re struggling just to feed yourself.
To the relief of hundreds of students a year, STU and it’s students’ union both still have funds available for students financially limping to the finish line. STU’s Millennium Bursary still has about $6,000 available, while STUSU’s Emergency Bursary has close to $8,000 of it’s original $21,000.
A couple of weeks ago, Crowell’s roommate’s mother showed up to his apartment to say her son would not be returning from his visit home, and neither of them would be paying his share of the rent. This week, he received a cheque from STUSU’s emergency bursary co-ordinator for $500. It’s nearly enough to cover the $510 he lose over three months due to his roommate’s unexpected exit, though his other roommate faces the same cost.
“It was a very shortly process – probably 15 minutes tops,” he said. I feel extremely fortunate to get it as I was and still kind of am in a pinch. It far from solves all my problems but it helped me destress.”
STUSU President Santiago Chavez wants to be clear that not everyone who applies gets extra funds from the school, but the student-funded bursary was made to be used.
“The money on the line is paid by this year’s student body through the Students’ Union fees, so we would like to see it used to the benefit of this year’s students,” he said. “The service was instated in the spirit of student-to-student solidarity and we would like to see that honoured through its positive impact.”
The issue sometimes is the flexibility of the rules around who can receive funds. The only guidelines for the approval process are that it be confidential, that a conflict of interest be declared and the committee member abstain from voting, and that money from the program is meant to assists students in emergencies, not urgencies or difficult financial situations, meaning it can’t be spent on expected costs like rent, tuition, or textbooks.
Sometimes, Chavez said, the line between urgency and emergency is not clear for students going into the process.
“The management of this program can be difficult and unpleasant at times because it’s bad that many of the students who apply don’t find the help they’d like, but the spirit behind the program is extraordinary and its implementation has definitely had an important and positive impact on many students’ lives since its creation,” he said.