Students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University face a future where some funding for scholarships and awards is cut in half.
The Family Campaign, a program designed to allow faculty, employees and administrators at Kwantlen to donate money to scholarships and awards, faces the prospect of losing matching money from the university. In the past, Kwantlen has matched donations from faculty and staff.
“Right off the top, it cuts in half the amount of finances we can contribute to students,” Katie Kinch, an advancement officer at Kwantlen, said.
According to Kinch, there are approximately 800 scholarships and awards across Kwantlen that students can receive, with many of those funded by donations made to them by staff and faculty.
“We have about 800 scholarships and awards across Kwantlen. Of those 50 are exclusively funded by staff, faculty and administration at Kwantlen,” Kinch said.
Last year, through the program, staff and faculty raised over $100,000 for student awards and scholarships. At the time, the university had allotted money in its budget for the program and matched all employee donations, raising the total amount to more $200,000.
This practice is common at other institutions, Kinch points out.
Faculty and staff who choose to donate determine where the money they donate goes. This usually means that the faculty member who is donating will give money to the faculty or program they are a part of, or the field they are currently in.
Kinch not only believes that not receiving additional money from the institution will hurt the program right away, but that it will continue to hurt the program, which also raises money for library resources, further down the road.
“In the past, we have received messages that it is very disappointing for the staff who choose to donate and see it as a real benefit to their employment with Kwantlen and an added value that the institution recognizes their financial commitment back to the institution and matches their giving, so I think it will have a significant impact on the overall performance of the campaign,” Kinch said.
Kinch thinks that the Family Campaign sends a strong message to the community at and around Kwantlen about the staff and faculty who work at the school. “It reinforces a really strong message that we are doing good work here,” Kinch said.
Anyone wanting to learn more about the Family Campaign at Kwantlen can visit its website
When she considered attending Kwantlen, Merrilee Foster thought about her two kids, six-year-old Karsten and 12-year-old Kayla. She thought about her two jobs. She thought about the burden of paying back student loans. She knew there would be sacrifices â€“ but she knew she had the ability to help people.
The 39-year-old single mom took the plunge and applied for Kwantlenâ€™s home support resident care attendant program.
She chose that program because, four-and-a-half years ago, Foster learned that her mother had cancer and took care of her at home.
â€œI didnâ€™t have any training, but, of course, itâ€™s your parent and thatâ€™s what you do,â€ she said.
When her mother passed away years later, a doctor took her aside and said what she did was amazing: not many people could emotionally and physically do what she had done. â€œI thought thereâ€™s gotta be more to my life than what I [was] doing. Thereâ€™s gotta be a positive. So I decided this was the route that I was gonna take.â€
As she made plans to attend Kwantlen, Foster knew student aid â€œwas everything.â€ She told the financial aid office that she thought she was crazy. But the financial aid staff told her â€œthereâ€™s so much out there youâ€™re eligible for. Just jump in and do it.â€
Foster called a government official in Victoria for help completing an application for a health care bursary. â€œShe walked me through it and reassured me, so I could sleep at night,â€ recalled Foster.
Weeks later, she received a letter in the mail saying that funding had been eliminated.
The B.C. government eliminated $16 million in student aid this summer. There was no official announcement and word only reached the public on July 22, when a leaked document listed the programs that were to be immediately and quietly cut. They were the Permanent Disabilities Benefits Program, the Debt Reduction in Repayment Program, the B.C. Loan Reduction for Residential Care Aide and Home Support Worker Program, the Health Care Bursary and the Premierâ€™s Excellence Award Program. Funding for the Nurses Education Bursary was reduced.
Ashley Fehr, the KSAâ€™s chairperson and director of academic affairs, said, â€œIt just makes me sick. Itâ€™s disgusting.â€
Fehr said 25 per cent of full-time Kwantlen students depend on some form of student aid. Because Kwantlen has a large nursing program, the university will be hit harder by the cuts than most schools. Fehr is already seeing the impact at the KSA office in Surrey, where students are telling her they donâ€™t know when theyâ€™ll have time to complete homework because of the need to work. She expects to see more stressed-out students than usual this year because of financial hardship.
The decision to make the cuts, said Fehr, is â€œshort-sighted because education is necessary for economic recovery . . . Weâ€™re going to have a lower-educated society.â€
â€œAny cuts right now are just a wrong, wrong decision.â€
Dr. Claudette Kelly, Kwantlenâ€™s dean of community and health studies, said the cuts are â€œunconscionable in a time when thereâ€™s such a demand for health care workers.â€
Foster, who still has to account for groceries, her mortgage and the usual mom-related expenses, decided she would tighten her belt and manage, because she wants badly enough to do the course. She refuses to worry about finances because â€œIf I start worrying about it now, Iâ€™ll be consumed by it.â€ But sheâ€™s worried about the future of B.C. health care.
Foster said B.C. residents will continue to need health care, but there may not be enough workers, or the workers wonâ€™t be as qualified.
â€œI donâ€™t think thatâ€™s gonna be the only cut to bursaries and grants.â€
“Emily” is a 24-year-old Kwantlen student and single mother of two small children, and at an Oct. 15 meeting her life story was used to give a human face to the issue of university funding cutbacks.
At the meeting of the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, two representatives from the Kwantlen Faculty Association used Emily’s story, as well as warnings about the current financial crisis, to appeal for restoration of post-secondary funding, which was cut 2.6 per cent in the March provincial budget.Vice-president Maureen Shaw, who is also an English instructor, appeared with secretary-treasurer and chemistry instructor Suzanne Pearce to share a Kwantlen counsellor’s story about Emily. She entered Kwantlen’s Special Education Teacher’s Assistant Program at the age of 19, already with a one-year-old child, and quickly became a star student, earning a GPA of 3.5 and serving as a student assistant.
Two years later, however, her marriage fell apart. Her husband and family abandoned her, and with all her family and financial supports gone, her student loans couldn’t cover rent, car expenses and daycare, driving her into debt.
Nt wanting to quit school altogether, Emily tried distance education but ran into more challenges, including a serious car accident and her son’s illness, beforeÂ eventually recovering and rebuilding.
The biggest obstacle students face to completing their education, according to Shaw and Pearce, is financial. Restoration of the 2.6 per cent of funding that was cut was one of five recommendations they presented to the committee. The other four were restoring real per-student funding to 2001 levels, committing to reducing tuition fees over the next five years, providing funding for Kwantlen’s elevation to university status and bringing back the student grant program.
“It’ll be awhile before we know how the recommendations are received,” said Shaw. Every fall, the provincial government puts out a priority paper outlining the main areas for government funding in the upcoming provincial budget. Groups such as the Kwantlen Faculty Association, as well as the public, are invited to submit briefs at committee hearings, to try to influence, and make recommendations for, priorities for government funding. According to Shaw, the committees are primarily made up of Liberal MLAs.
New Kwantlen president David Atkinson was the first speaker at the Oct. 15 meeting. The deadline for submissions is Oct. 24, after which the committee will issue its final report, on Nov. 15.
“There’s a lot of demands on the government dollars,” said Shaw, but added that if they hear from enough people that it’s a concern, the government might decide to act.