Maintaining the QIP important for students

Enriching University of Lethbridge student experiences at an already vibrant and dynamic campus was the basis for the creation of the Quality Initiatives Program (QIP). Maintaining the QIP in the face of pending budget cuts is a looming challenge.

Study lounges, Fresh Fest, academic speakers, the ULSU Food Bank and undergraduate research initiatives are just a few examples of how the QIP program continues to meet the needs of students and how important this program has become to the U of L.

"Funding for student assistance and student initiatives is precisely for what the Quality Initiatives Program is designed," says Jeremy Girard, ULSU president. "This year, the University and the ULSU are providing $600,000 towards these budget lines, which will provide many students with an amazing source of funding."

The QIP, however, could be facing some tough times ahead, according to Girard. With the prospect of government funding cuts to post-secondary education, the University will be forced to make difficult budgetary decisions, putting the QIP at risk of being eradicated.

"The ULSU is striving and urgently pushing that QIP be maintained, by being an active voice in the University Budget Committee, by having regular discussion with senior administration and by lobbying the Province of Alberta to increase base operating funding," says Girard. "QIP is an essential part of student funding at the University of Lethbridge and its inception shows long-term and high-level thinking by the Board of Governors."

In 2005, QIP was developed as a result of negotiations between the University of Lethbridge Students' Union Executive Council and University administration. After witnessing the successes of a similar program at the University of Calgary, both parties agreed on establishing a QIP to begin in the 2006-2007 fiscal year.

Under the QIP program, University administration allocates 12 per cent of annual tuition fee increases to support the proposal-based funding system.

According to Girard, QIP has $210,000 available in scholarships, grants and bursaries, which are allocated by the University. There is also $80,000 dedicated to undergraduate research opportunities that have opened up more opportunities for students wishing to extend research into non-science areas, where in the past less funding has been available.

QIP also offers students an emergency assistance program for students who find themselves in the position of not being able to meet their basic living requirements.

"For students who find themselves in a severely tight spot, with no other funding options, non-repayable emergency assistance grants are available," says Girard, adding that the program also funds two food bank programs and a one-time distribution of monies towards disabilities funding.
"Overall, the University and the ULSU have $35,000 available per year for needs-based funding."

Students who are interested in attending conferences or volunteering can also benefit from QIP, which has the resources to allocate $20,000 per year to this type of learning.

"These learning experiences are encouraged by the University and the ULSU, as learning outside of class is a keystone to a liberal education," says Girard.

Just this year, QIP funds have been granted to Fresh Fest, the four-day event that welcomes new and returning students to the University and the ULSU. Rookie Camp is supported by the ULSU, and coordinated by Recruitment and Student Life, to promote student retention and serves as another example of the benefits of QIP funding.