By Amy Badry
Every year the Students’ Union gives funds to clubs and individuals for conference and travel fees related to academic or professional development. However, last year they were over budget by $14,000.
The Travel and Conference Fund has $50,000 for expenses students incur while attending conferences, such as transportation and attendence fees.
“Why we went over budget was based on the system we had last year,” said SU vice-president operations and finance Patrick Straw. “There was no system of checks and balances to ensure we didn’t go over.”
Last year all travel and conference funding was looked over on a monthly basis. This year the fund will be looked over weekly to ensure better management.
“The big reason we were over was just because there was so much demand,” said Straw.
During the monthly review of funds last year it was noticed the budget was over by $7,000 but funding was not shut down immediately. Two weeks were given to allow students to apply for funding.
“[Last year’s SU] felt it was unfair to just suddenly say there was no more funding without giving some time.” said Straw. “But within that two week period we racked up $7,000 in people who applied.”
All the applications qualified and all were accepted.
“I guess the word spread,” said Straw.
This year, the $50,000 budgeted for travel and conference funding will be split between the four terms depending on demand.
“How we have done that is by looking at the statistical averages,” said Straw. “For example, the winter semester gets the highest demand so we have allocated the highest amount of money for it.”
The fall term has the second highest amount of money allocated for it while spring and summer terms have the least amount.
“Once we see that we are nearing the limit we set for the term, we will shut down the fund for the rest of that term with a probationary period,” said Straw.
Straw said there are not many restrictions to what students can use the fund for.
“Things we would deny is if you are getting academic credit for it, if it is a political rally, but other than that we don’t sit and say what is worthwhile and what is not,” he said. “And not like gambling or if you are going to Vegas for a huge shindig.”
Proper management will be better for students, said Straw.
“There won’t be delays and issues in terms of having to wait to see if funding is approved,” he said. “There won’t be anything hidden. It will all be very clear-cut. So that is what I am looking forward to.”
Students will also be able to access grants through a new Student Activities Fund that will soon be launched by the university through a new leadership and student engagement website.
The fund is currently in its planning stages and it’s estimated students will be able to start applying in late fall or early January.
“The university feels it is important for students and their professional development to have something like the Student Activities Fund,” said leadership program coordinator Gareth McVicar. “The student engagement aspect is really important.”
The Student Activities Fund is funded in part by the SU Quality Money Initiative and part by the university.
“The SU and my office will be working really closely together to make sure that there is no double dipping going on,” said McVicar.
About $65,000 per year is available to students through the new fund.
“It is really something that has been designed to give more options for students where they get funding sources from so it is not just all on one organization,” said McVicar.
Sixth-year education student Angel Guerra said conference funding is a great opportunity for students.
“If sending people away to conferences is the worthwhile thing for the students, and the student body and Calgary as a whole then maybe they should increase the budget if they needed it last year.”
Third-year engineering student Matt Tierney agrees.
“I think it’d be great. The great thing about university is it’s not so much learning through courses as it is learning through other things,” he said. “So the more funding that can be made available to students to learn outside of the university I think the better.”