The UNBSU is proposing a $10 yearly fee to go towards a new student emergency bursary fund to help students in financial crises.
They are asking students to vote on it in a referendum question in the Student Union general election running this week.
“[The UNBSU] tries to see where we can help students more and fill those gaps, and this was just kind of a gap that we saw and wanted to fill,” said Lee Thomas, vice-president internal.
The bursary is a service available to undergraduate students experiencing a financial crisis, such as if a medical emergency interfered with being able to pay a portion of tuition. Students can receive up to $500 this way.
However, the boundaries qualifying an emergency have not yet been defined.
“It’s really hard to set out concrete boundaries because … students face things that we can’t really imagine and anticipate for,” said Thomas.
“We don’t want to put too many limits on it because we don’t want a student to come to us with what is clearly an emergency and have written policies that are not inclusive of that specific incident.”
The UNBSU is basing the emergency bursary off a similar service offered at STU. There, a student facing a financial emergency fills out a form which then goes to a coordinator hired by their student union. The applications are then brought to a board.
Emergency bursary funding would be drawn from a pool of money collected from students as a part of student fees. The fee for this service would be an extra $5 each semester. Leftover funds would roll over into the following year’s budget.
“We’re actually not really anticipating there being leftover funds based on the amount that we’re collecting and the amount that STU has told us that they collect and pay out every year,” said Thomas.
Because this is a bursary, students who use the service would not be required to pay anything back. Students would also receive the funding in about a week.
“I think there’s something really powerful about students helping students and that’s essentially what this is. It’s one of those things that a lot of universities and a lot of other student unions are providing,” said Thomas.
If students vote yes to the emergency bursary service, it will be instated in September 2016.
“If students vote yes and agree to this then we’re going to totally run with and make it the best service that we possibly can. If students vote no it probably just means that this isn’t something that they view as necessary and we’ll redirect our energies elsewhere,” said Thomas.
“Our goal is not to hammer anything through, our goal is to provide services that students say that they want.”
Miranda Oblenis, a third-year medicinal chemistry student, said that she wouldn’t mind paying the extra $10 a year for this service, although she doubts she’d ever use it herself.
“I think it would be a useful service for applicable UNB students. If anything were to happen it would hopefully make it a less stressful situation for them knowing that this service is available.”
Voting on the referendum question will take place in the Student Union general election which ends on Friday.