By: Chelsea Perry
Today and tomorrow, the UPEISU will be holding a referendum to determine whether Aspiria, the SU’s student assistance program, will be funded by students next year.
In September, the UPEISU implemented Aspiria for a trial year, which was funded by the remnants of the mental health initiatives fund. If the referendum indicates support for the program and the introduction of a levy into student fees, then the program will continue to exist as a student-funded initiative.
The proposed levy will add a $4.20 fee to student accounts charged per academic year, if approved.
Aspiria provides a wide range of supports including legal, financial, academic, nutritional, and mental health.
Formerly, UPEI had sponsored a student support program through Shepell-FGI in 2014. The program was launched on a trial basis and offered services 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Through the Shepell-FGI SSP (student support program), students had access to services very similar to the ones outlined in the new program being proposed.
The student support program was terminated in May 2016 as a result of nominal usage. According to UPEI, less than 0.5% of the student population had accessed the service. (Using UPEI enrollment statistics, an annual usage of 0.5% would have equaled approximately 22 students).
The new student support program Aspiria has seen slightly better results.
Between September and December 2018, 36 people utilized the services. That’s 0.7% of UPEI’s current population of 4669 students.
Those 36 people accessed 95 services, meaning that the majority utilized more than one service Aspiria offers.
In total, the activity count was 126. This includes those who used the service, and those who started to use the services but didn’t follow through. Information was gathered from the Aspiria app, website, and contact centre.
Here are the services accessed broken down:
- 27 Consultation – Psychological
- 3 Consultation – Legal
- 3 Life Coaching
- 2 Smoking Cessation
The gender balance of those who used the services was 28 women, 6 men, and 1 other.
The Cadre discussed these statistics with Rob Gould, Vice President of Aspiria. Gould noted that Aspiria is considered successful if 1% of students use the program.
“1% utilization is approximately the average we see across our student business. This can sometimes take a year or two to achieve as the SAP is still a relatively new concept,” says Gould.
Utilization is measured on a 12 month basis, whereas the UPEI statistics were taken after 3 months.
Gould added that success with a student assistance program can be difficult to measure.
“I would say that if the SAP helps one student, then it is a success,” he said.
SU President William McGuigan says if the referendum doesn’t pass, the program will continue to be offered next year using money from the SU health and dental reserves followed by another referendum vote.
“If it [the referendum] fails, we’ll pay for it again and have another vote. So it’s very likely if it passes or not it’ll be here next year.”