Every university student strives to get their studies off on the right foot — and that applies to managing the costs of university, too.
But even the most meticulously planned student budget can be derailed by unexpected events. A death in the family could require travel funds. A late payment from an employer can leave a student stuck between paycheques. A busted laptop could mean missed assignment deadlines if it’s not repaired or replaced ASAP.
Dalhousie has many scholarships and bursaries for students — part of the more than $67 million it distributes in total financial assistance each year. But most of these are awarded on a term basis, or for very specific requirements, and aren’t able to respond to these sorts of sudden, immediate financial needs.
That’s where a new fundraising campaign comes in, one that’s launching enthusiastic support straight from the top.
Kicking off with generous spirit
Dal President Richard Florizone and his wife, Mona Holmlund, assistant professor in FSPA and History, have committed a personal contribution of up to $50,000 to match donations to a new fund that will support students in urgent financial need.
The On Track Microbursary fund will give students who are experiencing a financial crisis the help they need to stay on the road to academic success. Starting in September 2018, the program will offer first- and second-year undergraduate students the opportunity to apply for emergency bursaries of up to $500. Students in the first and second year of their degrees are more at-risk of dropping out and not completing their studies, and financial difficulties are often a factor.
“From my own time as a student, I remember the impact a gift of $200 had on my studies; it made all the difference that semester,” says Dr. Florizone. “We want to provide support for Dalhousie students facing immediate need.”
In the spirit of the fund — the big difference small gifts can make — the university is looking to raise the funds to match Florizone and Holmlund’s donation through a community crowdfunding campaign. Faculty, staff, community members and others can make donations of any size through the projectDal website to boost the On Track Microbursary fund.
The campaign is hoping to raise $50,000, which Drs. Florizone and Holmlund would match, dollar for dollar. This initial investment of $100,000 will provide up to $500 in emergency bursaries to upwards of 200 students.
Dr. Holmlund tells the story of encountering a student in one of her courses who was doing very well, academically, until they suddenly stopped attending class.
“I kept reaching out to them but it was only later that they responded, explaining that there had come a point in the term when they could no longer afford their medication,” she recalls. “I wish I had known this sooner. I wish we'd had an emergency microbursary in place that would have given them a hand up when they needed one.”
Helping students stay “On Track”
The bursaries, which will be administered by Student Affairs, share a name and are aligned with On Track, the university’s student success and retention program.
Like the bursaries, On Track supports first- and second-year students, offering a suite of programs that include coaching, supports, online modules and much more. They help students identify and develop their strengths and set academic and career goals, while also offering services for students who are struggling early in their studies.
Application for the bursaries includes students filling out an online form and having a face-to-face meeting with an On Track advisor. If approved for a bursary, the aim is for students to receive the funds within a two-to-five-day period.
“Student success, student retention and equity of access are core to our values and Dalhousie’s strategic priorities,” says Dr. Florizone. “By increasing access to emergency financial aid for students, together with the supports offered through On Track, we’re strengthening Dalhousie’s ability to help students be successful.”
To learn more about the microbursaries, or to donate to the campaign, visit the projectDal website.
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