Opinion: Ensure Indigenous students have access to post-secondary education

In an increasingly competitive knowledge-based global economy, Canada needs its brightest minds engaged on all fronts. To do that, we have to ensure access to higher learning for all Canadians. For too long, we have left too many behind.

In Budget 2017, we saw some concrete steps in the right direction. In addition to support for skills and employment training and funding to improve housing conditions for Indigenous people off-reserve, the budget offers welcome funding that helps clear the way for more Indigenous students to access post-secondary education.

However, more needs to be done. Indigenous peoples face significant barriers to post-secondary education. For example, moving to a new community without family support can be overwhelming. Many Indigenous students come from isolated and remote areas. They don’t have the same opportunities as their counterparts elsewhere. The environment is not equitable. As a result, far fewer First Nations, Métis and Inuit in Canada have a university degree than non-Indigenous Canadians. In fact, less than 10 per cent of Indigenous people between the ages of 25 and 64 in Canada have a degree. The national rate is more than 26 per cent.

It is not only an issue of social justice, it is a major economic issue. When government talks about building a prosperous future, it must remember that unlocking the potential of Indigenous youth is vital to that success.

The recent budget commitment to a $90-million increase in funding to the Post-Secondary Student Support Program under Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada will provide greater access to post-secondary education. The fund helps pay for tuition, books, travel support and living allowances.

Changes to the Canada Student Loan Program will also make lifelong learning more accessible to all Canadians, including Indigenous students. There are many routes to higher education and these changes are going to make it easier for …read more

Source:: Vancouver Sun

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