The University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) hardship fund is more than half depleted only two weeks into the start of classes due to an increase in students requesting financial aid, according to UMSU vice-president student life Tracy Karuhogo.
UMSU’s budget allocates $20,000 for the hardship fund each year, and so far $12,000 has been distributed much more than is usually spent by this time in the year.
The hardship fund, administered by UMSU’s vice-president student life, provides aid to students needing emergency financial assistance who have utilized all other resources available to them.
Karuhogo said that students may receive up to $500 per semester for costs associated with child care, health care, rent, urgent bills and other general needs such as groceries or school supplies. The fund cannot be used to cover the cost of tuition, textbooks or credit card bills.
Karuhogo encourages interested students to consult UMSU’s website, where they can access more information about the fund, including categories students can apply for.
She blamed the increase in applications on inflation and highlighted the role that rising rent and grocery prices play in students’ financial difficulties.
“Rent is just becoming outrageous,” she said.
As of July, Canada’s rate of inflation was 7.6 per cent, while Manitoba’s was even higher at 8.8 per cent.
Karuhogo pointed out that students often have difficulty finding good-paying jobs, and that international students specifically have a limited earning potential.
“International students are only allowed to work twenty hours in a week, so definitely that limits their budget,” she said.
Karuhogo also said she may ask UMSU to reallocate funds from other areas of the budget where the money is “not being used as much.”
“After October 15, I am able to apply to the finance committee and appeal to them and tell them we need more money allocated to a specific area,” she said.
Karuhogo cautioned that the hardship fund “can’t be a continuous solution,” and called it a “band-aid for students.”
“We do need more long-term solutions when it comes to giving students more jobs or increasing hours for international students,” she said. “I think [the] hardship fund is just a band-aid for all the situations that students are going through, and the government or the university has to provide more resources for students to get jobs or more opportunities for students to be working.”
If you are in need of financial assistance, visit https://umsu.ca/services-and-support/hardship-fund/ or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.