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Helping out relief
By Tanya Januch
As tuition levels increase along with student debt load, a new independent web site has gone online to help students in need.
Launched in December, studentawards.com is a free service which matches students with financial awards for which they are eligible. Students complete an online questionnaire and are then compared to the thousands of awards on the database. The appropriate matches are delivered to a personal, password-protected mailbox with detailed information on the award and the award administrator's name and address.
Director of business development for studentawards.com, Stewart Stein said he and his associates had seen similar web sites in the United States but saw there was nothing of the kind in Canada. "We've had such great feedback," Stein said.
While tens of thousands of award dollars go unclaimed each year, Stein said the hope for the site is to help students locate many of the bursaries which have not been well publicized and ease some of their financial burden.
"The web site sounds like a good idea," said Rob Savage, press secretary for Dave Johnson, minister of education. "Students are going to pursue bursaries and awards and in this day and age the internet is a good place to look."
Manager of Western's financial aid services Christina Lederman said she does not see a problem with publicizing bursaries and awards at Western. "All of our bursaries are distributed, every dollar." Last year Western distributed $6.5 million in bursaries and awards. "Our students are very aware of their financial opportunities," Lederman said.
However, some students say they are unaware bursaries exist. "I would have applied for a bursary if I had known about them," said Maria Grant, a second-year health sciences student. Grant added while she believed the university had the information available she did not know where to look for it. "Students just don't have the time to do the in-depth research."
Stein said studentawards.com is completely funded by corporate sponsors who advertise their products and services of interest to post secondary students. "We are not publicly funded and we don't receive any money from universities or the government, so everyone is happy," Stein said.
"While individual universities publicize their own awards, it is the private grants that are more difficult to locate." said Stein. "We also hope to create new awards. Maybe there are people out there who want to give out bursaries but don't have the means to advertise it we will publicize it for free."