Bursary fund aids students in times of crises

Graphic by Meaghan Ince

There are numerous bursaries and funds available to students studying at Wilfrid Laurier University, one of the bigger ones being the Student Emergency Bursary Fund, which, as its name suggests, aids students in times of crises.

“The Student Emergency Bursary Fund is a fund that exists and is used at the discretion of the dean of students, who is Leanne Holland Brown,” Ryan Brejak, associate director of annual giving and development and alumni relations, said.

“That fund is really a fund that exists to help students continue their education when they find themselves experiencing an unforeseen financial crisis.”

Brejak claimed that there are no concrete restrictions to the fund and what constitutes an emergency is fully under the discretion of the dean of students.

“A typical example of things that come up is last year [when] we had a student who experienced a house fire and lost a lot of their belongings. To continue studying at Laurier, they talked to the dean of students because they were in this financial crisis,” Brejak said.

“That’s what they needed to get back on their feet and make sure they could continue their education at Wilfrid Laurier.”

Brejak went on to recount other times students had to approach the dean of students to seek aid from the fund.

“There’s also situations where students couldn’t afford new eye glasses or a new computer. They approached the dean of students because of that financial crisis they were in.”

The Student Emergency Bursary Fund is available to all students, should their situation be deemed an emergency.

However, while there may not be restrictions set by the school, financial restrictions remain.

“They typically have to turn away 50 per cent of people that come to them in financial crisis because there isn’t enough funding in this type of bursary,” Brejak said.

The bursary is largely funded through donations, Brejak explained, made by alumni, faculty and staff, as well as friends, family and community members.

“One part of the fundraisers we do is through the Graduating Class Gift [sic]. There is a communication that goes out to all that are graduating to make a donation in the amount that honours their graduating year,” Brejak said.

This year, the amount being asked for is $20.17 to commemorate the 2017 graduates.

“We often have a matching donor, who will match dollar for dollar, donations that come in from the graduating class. This is the time of year we’re reaching out to corporations and alumni to try and find a matching donor.”

Brejak explained that they do not have a donor at the moment, however, the decision will be made shortly.

“In the past, it’s been Manulife whose made that matching gift. They’re an option again this year.”

This year, to promote more donations, the Student Emergency Bursary Fund has been put on HAWKstarter, Laurier’s crowd-funding platform.

“Anyone will be able to go to HAWKstarter and donate to the Graduating Class Gift, to support the Student Emergency Bursary Fund. We accept donations from anyone and everyone who is interested in supporting Laurier and impacting students.”

The Graduating Class Gift allows graduating students to leave behind a parting gift to their fellow students.

“It goes into the Student Emergency Bursary to help that next generation of Golden Hawks.

To pay it forward and impact future students that come to Laurier who need that support,” Brejak said.

Brejak claimed that while funds are limited, recent years have seen a spike in how many students donate.

“It really shows the character of Laurier students. They don’t want someone to pay for something when they’re in need. They really want to make sure they can pay it back and feel like they have given back to a fund that helped them in a time of need,” Berjak said.

“We see so many staff and faculty, alumni and community members support this fund and its really inspiring to see how many people want to ensure that students have the resources and have the ability to complete their education when they’re here.”

Berjak said he felt hopeful in how many staff, faculty, alumni and community members at Laurier support the fund to ensure that students in the university have the financial resources they need to complete their university education.

“I find the fund very inspiring. It’s great that the deans are the overseers of this discretionary funding that is supported almost entirely by donations and are able to make an impact on students lives when they need it the most,” he said.

Berjak also discussed the difficulty of turning away students when they encounter financial situations. According to Berjak, the fund is supported entirely by donations.

“The dean of students has students approach them all the time that encounter unforeseen financial crisis. They often have to turn people away because this fund is supported almost in its entirety by donation. It does not often have enough support to give out to students,” he said.

“They use their discretion and do want students to get back on their feet and be successful. They are as diligent as possible in separating situations and giving out the bursary funding to students truly in need.”

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