The regulations that govern the funding of post-secondary education for First Nations students are in need of a major overhaul, a study released yesterday by Ottawa think-tank Macdonald-Laurier Institute for Public Policy stated.
The study criticizes the current Post-Secondary Student Support Program, run by the Ministry of Indian and Northern Affairs, which entrusts $300 million to regional band councils for distribution to individual students.
“The current funding system has failed the test of accountability,” said Calvin Helin, aboriginal businessman and co-author of the study. “There is documentation of surplus funds being used by bands for non-eligible expenses, students being waitlisted, widespread allegations of nepotism and off-reserve students facing difficulties getting funds.”
The proposed Aboriginal Post-Secondary Saving Account would phase out the current system, replacing it with one in which funding is transferred directly from the government to Indian students.
The APSSA would see $4,000 deposited at birth, and an additional $3,000 deposited for every completed grade from 6-12.
“There is an element of incentive, but the fundamental change was to empower students to be able to make decisions for themselves,” said Dave Snow, co-author of the study.