Where does the money go?

<em>In this bi-weekly series, </em>Imprint<em> sits down with the heads of different services provided to staff and students across campus to learn where the money is going, how each service helps students, and what is happening behind the scenes.</em>

University can be stressful, especially when you&rsquo;re a student at one of the most academic schools in the country. In many cases, it is helpful for students to talk to a counsellor, a service which is offered to undergraduate students, graduate students, and staff members alike through UW&rsquo;s Counselling Services. But who foots the bill?

&ldquo;Our funding for the main department is 50 per cent from the students, so it shows up on their ancillary fee that&rsquo;s on their tuition, and then 50 per cent from the university,&rdquo; said Tom Ruttan, the director of Counselling Services.

The student portion of this fee comes from the Student Services Fee (SSF) which costs students $134 per term and is set by the Student Services Advisory Committee. It also covers the Accessible Transportation Service for Students with Temporary Disabilities, UW Art Gallery, Health Services, Centre for Career Action, Counselling Services, Organizational &amp; Human Development, Student Security Service, and Student Success Office. Students cannot opt out of this fee.

In addition to this funding, Counselling Services brings in additional revenue through satellite locations.

&ldquo;We are in 12 or 13 other locations in addition to Health Services and Needles Hall,&rdquo; Ruttan said. &ldquo;We&rsquo;re in each of the six faculties, we&rsquo;re in residences, we&rsquo;re in Architecture in Cambridge, Digital Media in Stratford, and Pharmacy downtown.&rdquo;

The cost of operating in these additional locations is partially subsidized by Counselling Services, but the locations also pay a fee.

&ldquo;That money allows us to buy some more counselling muscle to help us through the busy times, so we&rsquo;d hire someone external on a contract,&rdquo; Ruttan said.

By paying the SSF fee, students have access to all services offered by the department without any additional charge.

The largest service offered is one-on-one counselling sessions.

&ldquo;We have a cap of 10 sessions available for students over an academic year &hellip; from September to August. There are a small group of students, because they have really complicated issues, or it might take them a few sessions to feel like they can trust us, for those students we will go past 10 sessions.

&ldquo;If there are any issues of safety that are ongoing we almost always go past the 10 sessions because we need to make sure that those individuals are safe,&rdquo; Ruttan said.

If a student is graduating or leaving UW, part of the counsellor&rsquo;s job becomes working with that student on transitioning from Counselling Services to an external service. In many cases, the counsellor will meet with or contact the student several months after their last session to ensure their transition occurred smoothly.

Counselling Services also offers several workshops throughout the term.

&ldquo;We have two kinds of workshops. We have the workshops that are closed, which means people register for them &hellip; they might go for six to eight weeks; the same group that comes in stays all term. They would be looking at helping with depression, helping with anxiety, helping with emotional control.

&ldquo;Then we have another group of workshops that we would call psycho-educational, so they&rsquo;re very much focused on how to help people deal with negative thinking, negative behaviour, and the third one is focused on emotions and how to use different strategies to deal with emotions. Those are open workshops &hellip; they can sign up for them at any point in the term,&rdquo; Ruttan said.

These workshops reflect the findings of the Mental Health and Wellness Review, which was completed by the university in 2011. This report assessed the programs, and identified the issues for students within Counselling Services, Health Services, and Accessibility Services.

Counselling Services also works closely with several departments on campus.

&ldquo;We&rsquo;re involved hugely with students, but that involvement with students could be through our connection with Health Services, through Athletics &hellip; or the Student Success Office,&rdquo; Ruttan said.

The relationship with Health Services is essential to treating students as none of the Counselling Services staff are psychiatrists, meaning they cannot prescribe medication to students who may need it.

&ldquo;We work really closely with police. So if police are concerned about a student they will let us know; if the police are concerned about a staff member or faculty, they will let us know,&rdquo; Ruttan said.

The Student Success Office (SSO) is another resource which assists Counselling Services in helping students. Often, when students come in due to school or exam-related stress, Counselling Services will refer them to workshops and other services provided by SSO.

Like all services covered by the SSF, Counselling Services is a not-for-profit organization. Ruttan says he works hard to make sure students&rsquo; money is utilized in the most efficient way possible.

&ldquo;This is really something I&rsquo;m passionate about,&rdquo; Ruttan said.

&ldquo;School costs a fortune, and most students go into debt to be here. So I want to make sure that our whole operation is really respectful of the students. If we&rsquo;re spending your money &hellip; if it&rsquo;s not a useful purchase, it won&rsquo;t happen.&rdquo;


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