AMS spent $700K on student services, observed varied program usage during COVID-19 pandemic

With fewer students on-campus and the transition to online learning and activities, the AMS Student Service’s budget this year is predicted to be lower than in the past.

In 2021, AMS Student Services spent an estimated $700,000 on its services, which include the AMS Entrepreneurship Hub (eHub), Food Bank, Peer Support, Tutoring, SafeWalk, Advocacy and the new Housing Service.

Donations to the Food Bank, UBC’s tuition surplus and approximately $15,000 in revenue from AMS Tutoring were used to finance the budget. Meanwhile, purchasing food and hygiene products for the Food Bank; investing in marketing; paying for the Nimbus Tutoring App; and wages for Safewalk and Tutoring made up the bulk of the spending.

According to AMS VP Finance Mary Gan, “during COVID, a lot of [the] budget ... across the board was reduced.”

Still, many services have been under-budget, which Gan attributes to the transition to virtually-held services that cost less to run than in-person.

In the past, the AMS executive and Student Services teams have noticed inconsistencies in the budget.

This year, they are working to ensure that “what [they] budget is the best reflection of what is actually spent,” said Gan. This involves reviewing the AMS’s past spending and making sure that the current and future budgets reflect many years of actual spending.

“We want to make sure that students are receiving their maximum benefits from the fees that they pay to the AMS and making sure that we’re able to support them the best we can through our services,” she said.

Gan could not provide more details, however, because the AMS Service's actual spending for this year has not yet been finalized. The report is expected to be released sometime in July at the earliest.

AMS Student Services interactions and usage varied

The usage of eHub, the Food Bank and the Peer Support service — previously separated into Speakeasy and Vice — doubled during the pandemic. eHub’s increase is notable given that several of its key events, such as the biannual RBC Get Seeded event, were cancelled or held online.

Despite a later start-date and fewer locations, group tutoring interactions also rose from 930 to 1266.

However, not every service saw an increase in the number of interactions.

SafeWalk saw a huge decrease from nearly 4,000 to under 250 interactions. This is likely due to the “social ban” at the Greek Village, as fraternity parties typically see a large volume of calls.

Meanwhile, the usage numbers for Advocacy have stayed relatively the same.

More accessible services is the goal

According to AMS Student Services Manager Mitchell Prost, “At a very high level, the biggest change that the AMS Student Services went through was the shift from in-person delivery to online.”

Although this was not possible for all operations, such as the Food Bank and SafeWalk, Prost noted that most services “were quite successful in making that jump over to a virtual environment.”

Speaking about the budget, Prost anticipates UBC’s plans to resume on-campus instruction and activities will primarily affect events held in-person.

“Because [UBC is] projecting for in-person things or at least a hybrid, there will be potentially more funds allocated to supporting those in-person initiatives than there would be for something that would be run virtually,” Prost explained.

Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, Prost said that “one thing that was a success this past year … was being able to support students from their own home.”

Come September, Prost hopes to give students the option to access services in-person or online. He said that this goal is still in the “super early stages of planning.”

“One of our intentions is to continue the theme of accessibility in the Services and I think having a hybrid way of delivering them, of course, when possible, would be … really ideal for us.”

This article and its headline have been updated. A previous version had said that the AMS had spent $2.8 million on student services last year instead of $700,000. $2.8 million is equivalent to their total budget.