06/26/2015 03:29 EDT | Updated 06/26/2016 05:59 EDT

Kinder Morgan donation scholarships refused by Kwantlen students

Students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University are vowing to refuse scholarships to be funded by a $300,000 donation agreement between the university and Kinder Morgan if the Trans Mountain expansion project is approved.

Under the agreement, Kwantlen would receive $15,000 a year, over 20 years, from the pipeline company to fund scholarships for apprenticeships and trades programs, as well as a new environmental protection technical lab.

"Quite frankly those scholarships aren't massive," said Allison Gonzales, president of the Kwantlen Student Association, who says the pipeline expansion contradicts Kwantlen's mandate for sustainability.

"Although its going towards the environmental protection program, I've already had students tell me that there's absolutely no way they will take that money."

Kinder Morgan is seeking approval from the National Energy Board to nearly triple the bitumen-carrying capacity of its existing pipeline that runs from Alberta to Burnaby, B.C.

But the $5.4 billion project has come under fire from environmental activists and First Nations groups, who say it would increase the possibility of oil spills, risking threats to the environment and wildlife.

No political stance

"I have no real qualms about it," said Salvador Ferreras, Provost and Academic Vice President of the university.

"The optics sometimes will be uncomfortable... these are... difficult decisions that we have to make on behalf of the success of all the students."

The student association, which represents over 18,000 students enrolled at the university's four campuses, said in a statement that acceptance of the money amounts to a "tacit endorsement" of the Trans Mountain pipeline.

But Ferreras says the university does not have a political stance on the project.

"It's a sensitive issue... we do not have a position on the pipeline itself, but we do have a position on our students' success," he said.

"That's where we focus our energy."

This is the second large commitment Kinder Morgan has made contingent on the approval of its pipeline expansion.

In April, it pledged half a million dollars to Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops.