Your guide to SFU’s financial aid options

The Peak met with Financial Aid and Awards’ Manoj Bhakthan to learn about financial options

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If you’re a student in financial need you can book an appointment with the Financial Aid and Awards office to discuss your options. PHOTO: Jonadan Cheun / The Peak

by Charlene Aviles, Staff Writer

Since millions of scholarship dollars go unclaimed every year, students should take advantage of the financial aid opportunities available. With the Spring 2022 semester tuition deadline approaching on January 21, 2022, now is a great time to get a head start on financial aid applications. The Peak talked to Manoj Bhakthan, director of financial aid and awards, to break down the different resources available through the SFU Financial Aid and Awards Office.

 

What student resources and financial aid options do you offer? 

The Financial Aid and Awards Office is a student’s go-to place for funding. In 2020–21, SFU provided undergraduate and graduate students with over $19 million in funding. This money comes either directly from SFU or through private donations. 

Domestic and international undergraduate students have a wide range of financial aid options to choose from, such as awards, bursaries, scholarships, and work-study programs. 

Canadian students are eligible for SFU’s financial aid and government student loans while international students are eligible only for SFU’s financial aid. However, American international students can contact the Financial Aid and Awards Office regarding student loans from the US. All other international students should contact their local governments to explore options for funding. For all financial aid opportunities, recipients must be full-time students (enrolled in nine or more credits).

Regarding bursaries Bhakthan said, “Lots of institutions across Canada don’t provide bursary funding to international students.” He added their office is proud of SFU for being “one of the only institutions across Canada that potentially provide bursary funding to international students.” 

To qualify for bursaries, students must be enrolled in a minimum of nine credits. If the Centre for Accessible Learning receives documentation confirming a student has a disability, they may be eligible for financial aid as a part-time student.

 

Scholarships, Awards, and Bursaries 

For scholarships and awards, students can re-apply every term. Depending on the scholarship or award, the eligibility criteria may be based on a student’s program or status as an incoming high school student, transfer student, athlete, or Indigenous student.

SFU scholarship’s eligibility criteria is primarily student’s academic performance. Scholarship recipients must be full-time students with a minimum 3.5 Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA).” 

For the undergraduate open scholarship, students do not need to apply. Instead, if they meet the requirements, they are automatically eligible. To qualify for selection, the scholarship candidates must have a minimum 3.67 CGPA and complete 30 SFU credits.

As opposed to scholarships, awards focus on significant volunteer and extracurricular experience and in good academic standing (minimum 2.00 CGPA). 

“It’s only in the case where we have two students where the committee feels equally strong about both of them, but there’s only one award available, they might use GPA as a tie-breaker,” explained Bhakthan. 

While everyone is eligible for scholarships and awards, bursaries are limited to students with financial need. The Financial Aid and Awards Office warns students bursaries “should not be treated as your primary source of funding.” When applying for a bursary, students will be asked for details on their financial situation, such as sources of income. It is also important to note that due to the high volume of applications, “will be processed in the middle of the term of application, after the tuition payment deadline.”

 

Work-Study Program

Similar to bursaries, students are eligible for the work-study program through demonstration of financial need. The work-study program offers students on-campus, part-time positions for one semester. It intends to give students “an opportunity to participate in research-based projects and earn a supplemental income.”

Students may reapply every semester, but the Financial Aid and Awards office will reassess the student’s eligibility. To qualify, students must complete a Canvas course to prepare them for their work-study application by covering topics such as resumes and cover letters. Then, if selected, students will complete a job interview.

 

How has SFU’s Financial Aid and Awards Office supported students during the COVID-19 pandemic?

In response to increased financial need and unemployment rates among post-secondary students, the Financial Aid and Award Office offered students emergency funding during spring and summer 2020. Bhakthan said, “The Financial Aid and Awards office disbursed over $3.2 million dollars and supported close to 3,200 students during that challenging time.” The emergency funding was intended to help students with “unexpected living expenses, technology for remote learning, and travel assistance to return to Canada or go back to their home country.”

Bhakthan said emergency funding is still available and students in need of emergency funding can contact the Office of Student Support, Rights, & Responsibilities office (student_support@sfu.ca) or the Indigenous Student Centre for more information.

 

What is your advice for students applying for SFU’s financial aid?

Bhakthan recommended students do their research before booking an appointment. The SFU Financial Aid and Awards website provides in-depth information on the different types of funding deadlines, eligibility criteria, and terms of reference. If students have background knowledge on the different resources available, they can make the most out of the advising appointment by asking specific questions. 

To learn more about SFU’s Financial Aid and Awards Office, book a Zoom, phone, or in-person appointment. To book an in-person appointment at any campus, email fiassist@sfu.ca. To start your financial aid application, visit go.sfu.ca.