With the Oct. 17 deadline for applying for the in-course bursary program now passed, leaving the Financial Aid and Awards Office with 800 applications to consider, the FAAO director says she would like to see more money and more interested students.
The 20-year-old program for undergraduate students who are not in their first year of study doled out over $443,000 in 2009 in the form of about 429 bursaries. The numbers are almost the same this year, FAAO director Laura Stanbra said. Last year, the awards, which average $1,000, were up for grabs among close to 900 applicants, a number that sank by 100 this year.
“‘It is not a serious decrease this year as the number does fluctuate every year,” says Stanbra. “‘But even if the number of applicants exceeds the number of bursaries, we could always do with more applications.”
She explained that the FAAO worked on a six-week marketing campaign for the program, which included notices on the MyConcordia Portal, sending out mass emails and placing ads in campus newspapers.
But the message still hasn’t gotten through to all, with some students at the Sir George Williams campus completely unaware of what the in-course bursary program was. While two students indicated that they were aware of it, they did not fill out the application form as they deemed it too long.
The length of the application process is indeed a problem, according to CSU VP finance Zhuo Ling, himself a former in-course bursary applicant.”‘It is very long and tedious and it could become a barrier for some students,” he said.
In future, Ling suggests that the FAAO link the in-course bursary application with the newly-implemented co-curricular transcript, which keeps track of a student’s extracurricular activities while at Concordia.
“‘That would eliminate at least three questions on the form and save students some time,” he said.
Stanbra acknowledges that filling out the form is much more than a five-minute thing, but explains the number of questions is necessary in ensuring that money goes to the right students.
“‘We’re handing out over $400,000 a year for this program. It’s a lot of money, so we need to have a system of checks and balances in place.”
Another obstacle for some students is the supporting documentation they must submit within one week of sending in their application. As not all students have their parents’ income tax notice of assessments and proof of summer earnings close at hand, Stanbra emphasizes that each application is studied on a case-by-case basis.
“‘If there is a reason they have not submitted the proper documentation, they can explain it to the committee in a letter,” she says. “‘But if all the documentation is not there, the application will be cancelled.”
Due to a technical problem on the MyConcordia Portal, the deadline for submitting supporting documentation has been pushed from Friday, Oct. 22 to Friday, Oct. 29, at 5 p.m.
A committee will meet in November to study and rank each application, before announcing the bursary recipients in early December. Seeing as the thousands of dollars going into the program comes primarily from alumni, Stanbra says the FAAO works closely with Alumni and Advancement to ensure that when a donor wishes to create a bursary, they not be too specific with the eligibility criteria. This, she says, allows more students to be eligible for a wider variety of bursaries.
Stanbra indicated that she would like to see an increase in donations for bursaries in the coming years.