The Rutherford Scholarship fiasco should’ve been handled better

If there’s one universal struggle university and college students face, it’s that we’re all desperately and notoriously broke.

While I now have a job that works well with my school schedule, I relied almost exclusively on student aid, savings, and scholarships during my first year. Because of this, I can imagine the shock and horror I would’ve felt as a new student seeking aid this fall: scholarship applications, specifically the Alexander Rutherford Scholarship, had been pushed back from the beginning of August to late fall. The way the delay was handled by the government was chaotic, to say the least.

In case you’re unaware, the Rutherford Scholarship is a blessing. It’s available to any Albertan student whose grades qualify, and is worth up to $2,500 in the first year of post-secondary. Without the good continued graces of Alexander Rutherford, I’d have eaten ten-cent ramen every night of my freshman year, and a lot of students are in the same situation.

Compared to the total cost of university, $2,500 can seem like a drop in the bucket. But for a brand new student figuring out how to manage finances? It can be everything. Depending on your program, $2,500 can cover all of your textbooks for the year plus spending money. The Rutherford Scholarship puts more money in first year pockets and alleviates financial stress.

Despite the confusion, the scholarship applications are apparently back on schedule. Of the ordeal, Minister of Advanced Education Demitrios Nicolaides said “the Rutherford Scholarship should never have been affected by the technology upgrade… when I found out, I took immediate steps to address the issue.” There has been no further clarification or comment about why or how this happened.

While I’m glad the issue has been resolved, it demonstrates a certain level of governmental chaos that no one knows why this happened. And while technology upgrades are crucial in this day and age, they should never be at the students’ expense. 

When it comes to something as important as the livelihood of some of the youngest, most vulnerable new members of adult society, the government shouldn’t be doing guesswork. Since the Rutherford Scholarship is guaranteed money to whoever qualifies, many students rely on it during their first year. My friends and I all counted on it being in our bank accounts, like so many students do. A mishap like this would’ve caused us all a great deal of anxiety.

Even though the error has been fixed, more action needs to be taken. This scholarship panic was a massive misstep, causing unnecessary stress to students who are already concerned about how they’re going to do in university. The government and student aid should be working together to figure out why this happened, and putting measures in place to make sure it never happens again. Not only will this ease the stress for students, but also the government, who will (hopefully) not have to scramble to fix something like this again.

Payton Ferguson

Payton Ferguson is a second-year English major by day, 2019-20 Opinion Editor for The Gateway by night (and also day). She enjoys long walks to the fridge, writing until her wrists ache, and bombarding social media with pictures of her chihuahuas.

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