Ottawa to cut Aboriginal student grants?


As reported by The Canadian Press:

The federal government is considering turning university grants for aboriginal students into repayable loans. The Winnipeg Free Press said in a report from Ottawa that Patricia Valladao, spokeswoman for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, confirmed the Post-Secondary Student Support Program is under review.

She wouldn’t say if the department has decided to transfer control of $314 million in student grants for First Nations university and college students to the existing Canada Student Loans Program, administered by provinces.

The review is worrying some aboriginal leaders and university officials across the country.

Lloyd Axworthy, president of the University of Winnipeg, said fewer aboriginal students will go to university or college if they have to apply for a loan.

According to the 2006 census by Statistics Canada, 35 per cent of the aboriginal population had graduated from a trade, college or university program, compared to 51 per cent of the general Canadian population.

“The gap is actually widening over the last couple of years,” Axworthy said. “Before they change the policy, I really think there has to be and should be a much broader consultation with the universities and with the aboriginal student groups and others to come up with a formula that really makes sense, as opposed to one that’s going to be designed inside the system.”

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Ottawa to cut Aboriginal student grants?

  1. Here’s the original WFP article: http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/breakingnews/Free_education_could_vanish_.html

    It’s worth noting that this change fits into a pattern for this federal government in “transferring” responsibility for native PSE education. I covered the situation at the First Nations Technical Institute last year.

    Here’s the tag for the coverage: First Nations Technical Institute.

    The crisis at FNTI was been delayed by the Ontario government providing emergency one-time funding to FNTI. However, the funding is/was scheduled to end April 30, 2008.

  2. Joey is right, it does fit into that pattern.

    However, people are jumping to an awful lot of conclusions based on the fact that there is a “review” under way. The idea that it would all be converted into loans strikes me as esepcially fanciful (As of next year, CSLP will be delivering something like $450 million in grants – so the fact that this money might get transferred to CSL doesn’t automatically mean it will show up as loans).

    Also, it should be noted that it’s possible that such a move might have bipartisan support: the Liberal platform in last year’s election certainly hinted at the idea that Aboriginal student support should be run out of the same organization as the rest of student aid.

  3. We have to wait and see what the next step is. Certainly from a public policy point, converting grant money into student loans is not good for Aboriginal students and stakeholders. I think the misconception in all of this is using the Canada Student Loan Program as a third party in disbursing the grants since they would be the obvious choice as they do needs assessments for students requiring loans and bursaries from the provinces. The only difference would be the needs assessments for First Nation students would be in grants rather than loans and grants.

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