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.”