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Aboriginal Youth and Student Financial Assistance


Mendelson (2006), Aboriginal Peoples and Post-Secondary Education in Canada ... On-reserve Aboriginal youth's reasons for not pursuing post-secondary ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Aboriginal Youth and Student Financial Assistance

  • Aboriginal Youth and Student Financial
  • Noel Baldwin and Joseph Berger
  • Canada Millennium Scholarship FoundationStudent
    Financial Aid Research Network Conference
  • June 12, 2008

Aboriginal Students
  • The term Aboriginal is used to denote those
    people in Canada who identify themselves as
    belonging to one of the recognized groups of
    peoples who were indigenous to the territory that
    became Canada prior to European colonization.
  • They are known as First Nations or North American
    Indians, Métis or Inuit.

Canadian Population in 1996 and 2006
45 higher than in 1996
Educational Attainment in Canada
On-reserve Aboriginal population with less than
high school education, aged 20 to 24 in 2001
Mendelson (2006), Aboriginal Peoples and
Post-Secondary Education in Canada
Post-Secondary Participation Two Years After High
On-reserve Aboriginal youths reasons for not
pursuing post-secondary
Aboriginal Share (projected) of the 15- to
24-Year-Old Population in 2006 and 2017
Proportion of Access Bursary Funds Distributed
Factors Affecting the Use of SFA by First Nations
  • The goal of this project is to examine the
    factors affecting First Nations use of financial
    assistance for post-secondary education
  • attitudes of First Nations youth toward student
    financial assistance
  • any barriers in the financial assistance
    application process
  • whether financial assistance is sufficient to
    encourage successful completion of PSE.
  • Forty focus groups in Western Canada in winter
  • First Nations high school students
  • First Nations youth in and not in PSE

  • Some limitations of the research should be noted

  • First Nations youth are not a homogeneous group.
  • Generalizability of opinions/perspectives of a
    limited number of key informants and youth from
    many different backgrounds and areas of Western

Influences and Expectations on Life after High
A) Youth discussed which individuals had the most
significant influences on their decisions for
life after high school.
  • family members
  • children
  • teachers, counsellors, academic advisors
  • friends
  • themselves (self-motivation)

B) High school students overwhelmingly expressed
a desire or interest in attending PSE in the
future. But many take a break or expect to
following high school.
I have seen my parents struggle and live in
poverty, and I didnt want that for myself. -
First Nations PSE student
Perceived Impact of System of Funding on Youth
Key informants were asked to what extent the
current system of student funding for PSE has had
an impact on First Nations high school students
aspirations and expectations around PSE.
  • Many noted that the current system has a positive
    effect by providing financial means often
    unavailable to those who want to pursue PSE.
  • Many noted that the complexity and unfamiliarity
    of student aid can act as a disincentive to First
    Nations youth aspiring to PSE.
  • Many noted that financial considerations alone
    are often not a significant factor in student
    planning they are intertwined with other
    factors that include family responsibilities,
    academic performance/need for upgrading and
    social/cultural factors.

 Barriers to Post-Secondary Education
Those who planned to attend PSE or were attending
PSE were asked about barriers they face.
  • Financial barriers alone were not those most
    frequently cited. Financial issues were often
    linked with other issues.
  • Need to care for children (or, less frequently,
    other family members).
  • Need for more academic preparation including
    lack of prerequisites, grades too low, lack of
  • Relocating and consequent isolation, loneliness,
    loss of community, culture shock.
  • Among those who had stopped attending PSE before
    completing a degree/diploma, financial barriers
    were noted in returning to college/universitypart
    icularly for those caring for children.

How First Nations Youth Find Out about Methods of
Paying for PSE
  • Family and friends including those who had
    attended college or university themselves.
  • Lower degree of parental involvement many youth
    are first in their immediate family to plan to
    attend PSE.
  • Less frequent use of formal methods of getting
    information (such as advisors, counsellors) due
    to lack of confidence or to the distance from
    information centres.
  • Far less frequent personal use of Internet,
    particularly in more remote communities.

Awareness and Usage of Types of Student Financial
  • A high degree of awareness of band funding
    (federal funds flowing through First Nations
    bands). It was the most commonly used and
    expected form of funding. But, there is a general
    over-expectation that it will be available.
  • There was considerably less awareness
    demonstrated about other methods
  • Student loans are sometimes a top-up combined
    with band funding.
  • Scholarships for First Nations youth are often
    under-used .

As First Nations youth are often attending PSE
after being out of school system for a few years,
it is more difficult for them to obtain
information about student funding and financial
Reasons for Limited Awareness of other Forms of
Youth often assume that band funding will be
automatically available, and that it, alone, will
be sufficient to cover their costs of attending
PSE. Band funding is a grant, not a loan, so you
th associated with a First Nation have less
interest in other funding vehicles.
I never really took the time to look in to
student loans or scholarships. I thought that
because band funding was my right that the money
would be there. But it wasnt like that. -
First Nations PSE student
Double-bind for First Nations Youth Living
Off-Reserve and Non-Status First Nations Youth
Some First Nations youth living off-reserve or
who do not have their Status noted a
  • Often not connected to information on band
    funding or unable to access band funding
  • Incorrectly assumed to have information on, or
    awareness of, other forms of assistance

On the reserve it is different. Here in the
city it seems they expect you to already know
about certain things. But if you are the first
person in your family to graduate and try to go
to university, where do you know these things
from? - First Nations PSE
Awareness Increases Once Students are in College
or University
While awareness of band funding generally
predates preparing to attend PSE, often awareness
of other forms of assistance does not. Students
become more aware of their funding options once
they become part of the PSE system.
I really didnt know that much when I started
university. I just sort of learned along the
- First Nations PSE student
Additional Reasons for Limited Awareness of other
Forms of Funding
  • Youth living in more rural/remote areas are
    removed from information centres.
  • Often limited Internet access to explore funding
  • Motivational barriers many assume they wont
    qualify for loans or scholarships/bursaries.

Opinions on Who Should Pay for PSE
The majority of First Nations youth indicated
that they felt the government should pay for
their PSE. Two major reasons given included
  • Federal government had a treaty obligation to pay
    for PSE.
  • It was in the best interest of the government to
    pay for their education investment in the
    future of Canada.

A significant minority of youth felt that PSE
should be paid through a combination of funders,
including government, family (if possible),
students themselves and, sometimes, employers.
These tended to be older youth and those not
connected with a First Nation.
It should be a mix depending on the situation.
It should be the responsibility of the
individual, the family, the government and the
employer. - First Nations non-PSE participant
Perspectives on Borrowing to Pay for PSE
Youth often feel they should not borrow to pay
for PSE
  • PSE is a treaty right better to wait for full
    grant funding than borrow
  • General debt-aversion
  • Debt as a foreign/new concept
  • Fear of academic failure
  • Lack of differentiation between good and bad
  • Worry that they may be disqualified from band
    funding, or band funding may be reduced, if they
    apply for other forms of funding

If I get a loan and fail what am I here for?
I need to pay it back plus I dont get a degree
or diploma. - First Nations PSE student
Differences in Awareness of Student Funding Among
First Nations Youth Compared to Other Youth
  • First Nations youth do not have the same sense of
    connection to the system often intimidated to
    find out what they dont know, or assume funding
    is not for them.
  • Parents less often involved and/or knowledgeable
    about financial options no precedent for
    seeking out information on PSE funding options.

Non-First Nations youth feel that they are
deserving of these types of awards and successAs
a result they navigate more easily through the
system. - Director of an Aboriginal Research
Centre at a post-secondary institution
Improving Delivery of Information about Funding
Key informants provided a number of suggestions
for improving the delivery of information on PSE
funding to First Nations youth.
  • Enhance level of face-to-face, personal contact
    with youth
  • Design informational/promotional materials
    specifically for First Nations youth
  • Provide more/better information/training to high
    school teachers/counsellors and First Nations
    education counsellors
  • Ensure that First Nations youth are given
    information at an early age as early as grades
  • Use of First Nations role models in delivering
  • Research demonstrated need to recognize needs of
    different groups of Aboriginal youth
    on-reserve, off-reserve youth associated with a
    First Nations, and off-reserve youth not
    associated with a First Nation.

Access to Band Funding
  • Overall demand for band funding exceeds supply,
    resulting in waiting lists.
  • (Often as a result) Some band funding is limited
    to specific types of students, or preference is
    given to specific types of students, including
  • full-time students
  • youth just out of high school
  • those who have not previously stopped out of
  • Community politics / nepotism are perceived as
    limiting access for some youth both perception
    and reality can affect access.

If you know somebody in the band or if youre
related to somebody, youre going to get where
you want to be. - First Nations youth not
attending PSE
Access to Other Forms of Funding
  • Barriers noted to accessing other forms of
    funding included
  • Difficult for First Nations youth to fill out
    online applications as many do not have access to
  • Limited face-to-face assistance with application
    process available for First Nations youth in more
    remote communities

First Nations youth dont have internet access
at home and/or on reserve.

- First Nations support worker
Overall Observations
  • Youth often lack a plan B if band funding is
    not available/sufficient.
  • First Nations youth are generally debt-averse and
    feel they should not have to pay for PSE, but
    older students appear more willing to access
    repayable forms of funding.
  • Often perception is that it is better to wait for
    band funding then explore other options.
  • Many First Nations youth only find out about the
    array of funding vehicles once they are in PSE.
  • Insufficient support through existing funding
    vehicles to pay for the costs of transportation
    and childcare costs of First Nations students.
  • Funding options for trades and upgrading appears

Cross-cutting Access Issues 
  • Limited access for
  • Those interested in trades training
  • Those interested in upgrading
  • Mature students, students with children

Adequacy of Band Funding
  • Band funding is not seen by key informants as
  • Waiting lists demand for PSSP exceeds supply
    (as also noted in other research)
  • Often students receive less than they need to
    fund their studies and lack alternate
    information on additional funding

Adequacy of Student Loans
Some key informants noted that student loans
amounts are not sufficient for the minority of
First Nations students that use them.
  • Insufficient to cover transportation costs (to
    and from home communities)
  • Insufficient for students with more than one

Key Informant Suggestions for Improving PSE
Funding System for First Nations Youth
Key informants provided the following suggestions
(in declining order of frequency)
  • More human resources and better training for
    staff dedicated to educating First Nations youth
    know about PSE funding.
  • Courses on career and education planning need to
    be a consistent part of the secondary school
  • More funding opportunities need for First Nations
  • Involve role models in programs/outreach.
  • More funding and support to increase Internet
    access to First Nations communities .

Solutions! Two Pilot Projects
  • Making Education Work (MEW)
  • In partnership with the Government of Manitoba
    and First Nations
  • Five-year project that involves 260 students was
    implemented in 6 sites located in Northern
  • Two-third of students were randomly assigned to
    the MEW program group while the others were
    assigned to a comparison group
  • The difference between the outcomes (high school
    graduation, access to a recognized PSE program)
    of the two groups will measure the impact of the
  • Offers a comprehensive approach (better
    information, academic support, community
    involvement, Aboriginal curriculum) designed to
    increase PSE participation of First nations

Solutions! Two Pilot Projects
  • The LE,NONET Pilot ProjectPurpose Support for
    Aboriginal students and its impact on retention
    and completion
  • In partnership with the University of Victoria
  • Provides a mix of measures to students tutors
    and mentors, financial incentives, community
    internships, research assistantships, improved
    support services and counseling
  • Not all students get the same mix
  • Will be evaluated through the use of Retention
    Curves Analysis, comparing current Indigenous
    students at UVic with cohort created from
    historical records (2000-05).

  • Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation1000
    Sherbrooke West, Suite 800Montreal, QC H3A 3R2
  • 1-877-786-3999
  • All our publications are available online
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