University of Alberta students received a shock Thursday afternoon when the Students’ Union announced the U of A will be withholding $500,000 in scholarships this academic year, affecting up to 350 undergraduate scholarships; however, the Office of the Registrar has stated this will not be the case.
SU Vice-President (Academic) Dustin Chelen said he met with the Assistant Registrar on Wednesday, who told him the application process will now take place later in the year, with the intent of opening applications in the winter semester, close them in April or May and disburse funding in the next academic year.
Assistant Registrar Perry Thorbourne confirmed that this timing shift will go forward, but he said scholarships will not be cancelled, suspended or withheld. He said they are currently reviewing the timing for 169 scholarships valued at $483,000, but a decision has not yet been finalized on which specific scholarships will be affected.
“(The SU’s announcement) is wrong on everything other than on timing — that’s the only thing that’s changed,” he said.
Chelen said he’s worried the timing shift would particularly affect students in their last year of study, since it would mean that fourth-year students wouldn’t be considered eligible by the time the funds are disbursed.
“By suspending applications until the end of the academic year, those students (in their last year at the U of A) wouldn’t be considered continuing students, because they wouldn’t be continuing in the next academic year when the awards would be given out,” he said.
But Thorbourne said students in their last year of study will still be considered eligible for the scholarships when applications open in the winter term, since they are enrolled students at the time they apply. He added that students will be cut a refund cheque if scholarship funds are disbursed after students have already paid their fees and tuition.
“If a fourth-year student was able to apply in the fall, they will still be able to apply in the winter,” he said.
“We’ve always said that we’ll maintain the eligibility as is established by the terms of the awards — we can’t change those, nor will we.”
The Office of the Registrar’s website currently lists the closing deadline to undergraduate academic scholarships as “TBA” and states, “The Undergraduate Academic Application is currently under review. More information will be posted once the review is complete. No estimated completion date can be given at this time.”
A notice was posted on Friday stating that the process and timing of scholarship awards is being reviewed, with the goal of making it easier for continuing students to plan their finances and prospective students to make informed acceptance decisions.
“Contrary to reports on social media and in media coverage, the University of Alberta is not holding back scholarship funds,” the notice read.
“This review is not related to budget challenges. Our goal is to better support the university’s recruitment efforts while also supporting current students.”
At an announcement for the U of A’s new Leadership Initiative, President Indira Samarasekera told media there has “obviously” been a miscommunication about the scholarship review and said there is no intention to cut academic scholarship programs.
“I find that very difficult to believe, because I don’t think that’s the case,” she said.
“I think that obviously some of the scholarships are funded by endowments, and so I’d have to know more details about that, but at this point, the plan is to review the scholarships to make sure that they are getting to the students that need them.”
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