The link between Bursar & Registrar

File this under the “Did You Know” or as the kids today say, DYK.

The Bursar is an uncommon job title in North American universities and colleges. However, bursary is a very common term. I haven’t drawn the (short, short) line between bursar and bursary before, but it came to me as I was looking at an advertisement for a bursary at another university, which students could receive “from the Bursar’s Office”. Huh. Would you look at that? Those words seem like they could have a similar root…

I took a quick look at the OED and sure enough they do! A bursar is the treasurer of a college or university. A bursary is an endowment given to a college student out of the treasury of the college. The term was first used in a college context in Glasgow, Scotland, although, as you might imagine, it is Latin: bursarius (treasurer). I’m quite sure that Gus Portolakos (remember the Windex-loving father in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”?) would tell you that it comes from the Greek. “Give me a word – any word – and I show you that the root of that word is from the Greek…”

At my own university, the bursar function is divided between the university’s Finance Office and the Registrar’s Office and the Financial Aid Office. The Registrar’s Office handles all the financial aspects of student accounts, including charging, receipting, refunding, and collecting past due accounts. Hence, I am at least in part the Bursar and Registrar. The Financial Aid Office offers bursaries which are deposited into student accounts via the Registrar’s Office.

I suspect the only position at a university that might be more obscure than registrar is bursar. Perhaps I should start another blog called, “Who Wants to Be a Bursar?”

Or perhaps not…

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