Matt Pasqua studies for his class at the University of Regina. Photo by Tiffany Cassidy.
by Tiffany Cassidy
Figuring out how to pay for her post-secondary education last semester was a major stress for First Nations student Daphne Kay. Her application for funding was lost when her reserve flooded. Then she applied for provincial and federal student loans and was denied for both. Kay was unsuccessful in scholarship applications. She finally decided to take a bank loan.
And yet, Kay said she is not the only aboriginal student facing hurdles to post-secondary education. She said this is a result of financial issues, but also social issues she has observed. She was the only aboriginal to graduate from her high school class and said that many of Canada's Aboriginal Peoples do not believe post-secondary is an option for them.
“A lot of people think ‘university is for smart privileged children, or smart privileged people, and I’m not one of them, I’m aboriginal,’” said Kay. She sees education as the key to removing social issues in First Nations communities.
When First Nations students apply for government funding they do it through the Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP). Kay said that bands are given a certain amount of funding for this from the federal government, but band councils may have more students apply for funding than they can support.
The University of Regina’s student union addressed the issue of PSSSP funding Jan. 25 in a “teach in". Cadmus Delorme of First Nations University of Canada took to the microphone and spoke, among other things, about the spending cap on PSSSP. The government continues to increase PSSSP by two per cent each year, despite the increasing growth of First Nations, said Delorme.
The Crown-First Nations summit on Jan. 24 addressed First Nations education, though much of the focus was on on-reserve education. First Nations student Brad Bellegarde said that is where Aboriginal Peoples need to be inspired to enter post-secondary studies.
Speaking on PSSSP, Bellegarde said, “If they (government officials) don’t lift the cap, it’s going to be another long battle.”
NDP MLA Cam Broten, who is Opposition critic for First Nations and Métis Relations, said the problems need to be addressed.
“To have a situation where individuals want to pursue education and better themselves and better their families, to not have the funding available, just doesn’t make sense from a social but also an economic perspective,” he said.
Broten said change will need a collaborative effort from many groups of Saskatchewan to speak on the issue.
Explore the struggles Aboriginal Peoples face to get to post-secondary in a multimedia project here.