The need to do well in classes, get involved on campus, keep up with reading, go to work, eat healthy and still keep some semblance of a social life can be overwhelming. If you are one of the hundreds of students with a merit-based scholarship from UBC, you know that all this can make maintaining a full course-load and high GPA even more stressful.
The UBC Senate’s regulations stipulate that a student must maintain a 75 per cent average and be enrolled in 27 credits — nine courses per year — to maintain a scholarship. If a student cannot maintain these two requirements, they lose the money — and once it’s gone, it’s gone.
Enrolment Service Professionals (ESPs) Julie Moran and Joanna Ludlow, along with graduate student and former awards manager Mandy Thiessen and student recruiter Erica Triggs, are changing this. The group has created a “transitional bursary” that would allow students intermediate funding while they get their grades back on track.
As ESPs, they recognized how much pressure students were under trying to keep to these standards, and how many were unable to keep the level of academic performance needed to maintain their awards, simply because university life can be overwhelming.
“What we were finding is that we were getting a significant drop-off of these students, not in terms of their retention at UBC, but in their ability to maintain the academic requirements of their award,” said Foran. “The creation of the transitional bursary was a way to honour Senate regulations, maintain an academic rigor and expectation around these awards, while at the same time giving a bit of leeway and understanding to the fact that students sometimes have a year that’s academically inconsistent with who they are as a student overall.”
Under the current system, students who fail to meet their scholarship criteria will lose their award money. If the student attests to extenuating circumstances such as a death in the family, hospitalization or mental health issues, they can begin an appeal process to have their award reinstated.
However, there is no safety net for those students with no extenuating circumstances — those students who just had a bad semester or year, and end up falling through the cracks.
“We are finding the common response from these students was, ‘I just had a hard time transitioning, the academic rigor of my courses was harder than I anticipated, it was harder than in high school, I got more involved on campus and I struggled to find a balance,” said Foran.
It’s for these students that the four decided to create the transitional bursary.
According to Ludlow, “student finances can be in so much flux, and have so much of a personal and environmental and a systemic background to them ... No matter what stage the student is at, just being able to help them through that conversation … is really impactful.”
When students fall into this category, they can reach out to their ESP. If they feel the student is eligible, the ESPs will then create a plan with the student and apply for the transitional funding. The funding is available for both semesters over the eight-month term.
“We’re striving to be student centered in our approach,” said Foran. “While we recognize the need for upholding UBC policy procedures, I think what the transitional bursary has allowed us to do is to take a look from the student’s perspective.”
Whether a student has an existing award or not, both Ludlow and Foran encourage students to talk to their ESPs.
“We don’t want students to stress out about finances — it is something we can help them handle so that they can get back on track [and] so they can focus on their life,” said Ludlow.