Get down with endowment funds: Students' Council opens contributions

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Seneca Velling
Vice President Operations & Finance
Tue, 02/25/2020 - 10:30

Students’ Council has opened voluntary student contributions to the two major UW-wide undergraduate endowment funds: the Student Life Endowment Fund (SLEF) and the Enterprise, Opportunity, and Innovation Endowment Fund (EOI). This decision gives students the option of donating to these funds — the only two endowment funds on campus dedicated exclusively to student needs and initiatives. You will now see these voluntary fees on your tuition statements:

  • EOI Fund fee of $5 termly, beginning Spring 2020
  • SLEF fee of $25 termly, beginning Fall 2020

All endowment fund fees are voluntary and are considered charitable contributions. This means you will receive a tax receipt that allows you to write off your donation!

Student Life Endowment Fund 

The Student Life Endowment Fund exists to help students fund projects that benefit their experience at the University of Waterloo. Since the spring of 1992, undergrads contributed to the fund through a compulsory fee, which was initiated as part of the "Coordinated Plan to Improve the Quality of Student Life at UW." That fee was discontinued for some time, but has now been reintroduced by Students’ Council — this time as a voluntary fee, to increase the principal balance of the fund to $3-4M. Each year, the interest on the fund is used to support various projects on campus. By reintroducing the fee, WUSA has the opportubity to double the amount of support for student groups over the next 10 years.

SLEF supports projects in the following areas:

  • The improvement of health, wellness, and safety on all campuses
  • The improvement of accessibility on all campuses
  • The renovation to student operated or managed spaces
  • Connecting students to available university resources
  • The improvement of current lounge and study spaces
  • Activities promoting or furthering the academic goals of WUSA
  • Joint projects with Municipal or Regional governments that improve student well-being

Any projects outside the sphere of these priorities are eligible for funding, but as funds are limited, such projects will receive slow and careful consideration before awards are granted.

Enterprise, Opportunity, and Innovation Endowment Fund 

The Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation Endowment Fund exists to assist with the costs of student projects, student-led entrepreneurship and start-up ventures, to facilitate attendance at conferences, professional or academic development opportunities, and to assist with costs of unique one-time projects that provide lasting benefit to students across all Waterloo campuses.

The fund was created by WUSA in 2002 from the sale of Clarica shares that were held as part of the student supplementary health plan. This led to an initial balance of $500,000. Since then, the fund has awarded $25k each year to student projects, start-ups, and opportunities for students' professional and academic development. As the amount of applications to the fund has skyrocketed in recent years, the current expendable balance is not enough to support demand. In an effort to provide more funding (available to students upfront while growing the principal balance), Students’ Council approved the introduction of a new voluntary fee for the endowment fund.

  • Initially, 75% of voluntary student contributions will be directed to the endowment principal and 25% to the expendable account
  • Once the principal balance reaches $2.5M, 100% of the contributions will be directed to the endowment principal, at which point the interest on the fund each year is anticipated to support $75k in grants annually

EOI is subdivided into three components:

  • Enterprise (25%) - used to remove the financial barrier of startup costs that may prevent the development of new initiatives, student business ventures, and similar
  • Opportunity (25%) - supports students who wish to engage in conferences, academic and professional development, or development projects abroad
  • Innovation (50%) - granted to short-term projects that will provide a long-term benefit to campus

Does opting-out limit me from applying?

No, opting-out does not limit your eligibility! If you opt-out of either fee, you will still be able to apply for funding as an individual or as part of a group.

Other changes!

This year Students’ Council also ratified other changes to the SLEF and EOI Fund, including:

  • Approving a new set of bylaws for the fund (great reading if you’re a policy wonk like me)
  • Expanding the application dates from winter term, to all year round
  • Partnerting with UW’s Office of Advancement to solicit external donations to supplement student contributions to the funds

Want to apply for funding?

Fill out the funding application today!