Students' Union Announces New Measures to Better Support Students: Financial Aid and Health & Dental Benefits

News Staff - Thu Feb 13, 2020

Edmonton, AB (February 13, 2020) - The University of Alberta Students’ Union (UASU) has announced new initiatives, resulting from student feedback, which will debut in September 2020 to allow better financial aid accessibility for students who need it most, in addition to more choice in health and dental coverage.

The UASU has successfully advocated the University to increase accessibility to Access Fund financial aid. Over the next five years, approximately $750,000 will be redirected to a series of student bursaries to ensure sufficient financial support is readily available for students on our campus who need it most.

This funding will:

  • Be directed to cover the costs of Students’ Union Membership Fees and Dedicated Fees through bursaries for students who are in difficult financial circumstances.
  • The remainder will be allocated to bursaries for students from groups facing particular financial pressures, such as students who parent, students with disabilities, and students on unpaid internships.

Since 1995, the Access Fund has enabled students in difficult financial situations, such as those who are ineligible for student loans, to continue on with their studies. Supported by a voluntary dedicated fee, the Access Fund provides sufficient funding assistance to students with the greatest need. Students who apply for these new bursaries will remain eligible even if they have reached their maximum allocation of emergency bursaries from the Access Fund.

“Given the growing financial pressures that students will face as the government and University drastically hike costs over the coming years, it was incredibly important that the UASU push for immediate action to help those students with the greatest need,” said President Akanksha Bhatnagar. “These bursaries may be the piece that allow some students to continue with their studies instead of having to take time off or dropping out entirely. There is more work to be done to improve the affordability and accessibility of education here, but in the meantime, this is a tangible, positive step that addresses gaps in the financial support system as identified by our members.”

At the same time that the new financial aid measures become available, the UASU will also be unveiling new coverage options under its health and dental plan. The new options will be:

  • A basic health and dental plan, as an alternative to the existing comprehensive plan. This option will be ideally-suited to students who do not frequently use their health and dental plan, or use their student plan in conjunction with another plan that they are covered under. Compared to the existing UASU plan, this option will result in savings of at least $50 per year.
  • Access to Critical Illness and Life Insurance, as a supplement to either the basic or comprehensive health and dental plans. This option recognizes that there is currently a coverage gap where many students and dependents of students are unable to affordably access these forms of insurance. The cost of this option will vary depending on personal factors and the amount of coverage sought, but it is estimated to cost less than $15 per month in most cases.

“While our health and dental plan remains popular with students, we recognized that we were not able to meet everyone’s needs with a single option,” Bhatnagar explained. “By introducing these new options, we are giving our members greater choice in picking the coverage that is right for them while keeping costs substantially lower than external insurance offerings.”

The Students’ Union is the official representative of more than 32,000 undergraduate students at the University of Alberta. It acts as a strong advocate for students both on campus and at all levels of government.

For more information, or to arrange an interview, contact:

Robert Nelson
External Advocacy Advisor
University of Alberta Students’ Union

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