The emergency bursaries review committee recommended a referendum on the emergency bursaries program in its report to council on Thursday night.
The committee examined the number of students using the program, amount of money being given to students, how the decision was being made and the overall cost of emergency bursaries in the students’ union budget each year.
“The issues the committee identified were, right now the program operates essentially on the honour system. If you write a letter that’s convincing of a sob story you’re going to get your application approved,” President John Hoben said.
The report showed a fairly even distribution of users in all years. These numbers were consistent in the two years studied.
From 2010 to 2011, 96 per cent of the 151 applications for emergency bursaries were approved. The average bursary given was $319, and the program cost $17,000 more than what had been budgeted.
The following year, only 72 per cent of 131 applications were approved. The average bursary given from 2011 to 2012 was also significantly lower at $266, bringing the program $2,100 under budget.
This year, $23,500 is budgeted for emergency bursaries. It’s the biggest expense line in the students’ union budget. The program exists to help students pay for unexpected expenses.
“We don’t typically verify most of the numbers or the stories which is an issue with a program like this. A lot of the people apply for this is because it’s very quick. One of the recommendations is to create some red tape,” Hoben said.
The committee recommended hiring an employee to oversee the program by interviewing applicants and confirming the information submitted on the form. They also recommended levying a $13 fee from students, which would pay for the employee and create revenue to fund the program.
According to the constitution, the students’ union may not increase fees by more than 5 per cent without a referendum. The current students’ union fee is $112 for full-time students, and $44 for part-time students.