by Kellah Lavoie
Above: FNUniv student Terri-Lynn Quewezance is worried about her grant. Photo by Kellah Lavoie.
Aboriginal students might have a tough time getting university funding in the future.
The federal government is looking at turning grants for aboriginal students into repayable loans.
Trevor Stutter confirmed that the Post-Secondary Student Support Program is under review. The manager of communication for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada for the area said there have been no dates set for when the review will be over. It was announced in the 2008 budget and, if it goes through, could potentially save the government $314 million each year.
“Overall the Government of Canada wants to modernize the way the government supports students,” Sutter said.
Terri-Lynn Quewezance, First Nations University of Canada student, said she has all of her university paid for by the program.
She is one of approximately 770 students at the university. If grants get cut, the opportunities of many of these young aboriginal people may be threatened.
Quewezance is sponsored by her reserve and said even if she was not funded for her schooling she would still be going to school but it would not be easy.
“It would be tough, probably on my parents, because they are getting older,” she said.
The numbers of aboriginal people with a post secondary education is small.
According to Statistics Canada only nine per cent are in university or another form of post secondary education while caucasians have a 23 per cent enrolment rate.
If funding is gone the numbers of aboriginal students might drop even further and force students into debt through the Canadian Student Loans program,
There has been an online uproar around the country since the announcement. The Facebook group “Stop INACS Proposal to Cut First Nations Student Financial Assistence!!!” had more than 7,500 members at press time. “Petition concerning the right of First Nations to Post Secondary Education” had 224 members.
As well, a First Nations council in Quebe created an online petition fighting the review of grant.
They have more than 16,000 signatures and the list of names is growing by the day.
Quewezance said she thinks they should make it easier than it is to get grants, not harder.
“For your first two years you should only have to take two classes and then four after that,” she said explaining how difficult it is to take four classes in the first couple of years of university.
Stutter said he could not find any dates for the review, beyond information that it is supposed to take place over 2008 and 2009.