students at Yukon College
The new policy does not encourage the self-sufficiency it claims to. For example, a student attending college or university on his or her own funds is penalized because that time is subtracted from the maximum allowance of 48 months for an undergraduate degree. Studies at a masters level or a doctoral level are funded for one year only, which is often an unrealistic time frame especially for those students with family responsibilities. Study is limited to the nearest institution to one's home community which eliminates, in some cases, a choice of quality education.
For comparison, the Canadian Foreign Student Affairs Program, which assists foreign students studying in Canada, has higher living allowances that those that existed under the former native post-secondary education funding program. As well, the guidelines allow foreign students to study at any institution they choose in Canada.
Included in the new policy for native post-secondary education funding are incentives in the form of scholarships awarded in specified areas such as commerce, public administration, sciences, forestry, agriculture, mathematics and computer sciences. This is another insidious strategy to exert control over the destiny of aboriginal people. The proponents of these directives claim they encourage self-government and self-sufficiency, but for the government to dictate which areas of study are a priority perpetuates paternalism. Who but First Nations people can determine what courses are a priority? Besides, the scholarships will come from 5% of the capped funds, decreasing available dollars for other students. The whole policy is, by design, obstructive and impedes access to education. Aboriginal participation at the post-secondary level was limited before these changes, but numbers of students will likely decrease still further.
The government is not unaware of Native peoples' concerns. In 1984, DIAND contracted a consulting group to do a study on post-secondary education. The study indicated that participation of aboriginal students was at 12% compared to 20% nationally and recommended a three-fold funding increase to bring enrollment to the national level. This report was noted by the Nielsen Task Force which undertook a comprehensive review of federal government programs in 1985-86. Also mentioned was the fact that 90% of students (whether they completed their studies or not) were successfully employed after leaving school.