Publication: Factors Affecting the Use of Student Financial Assistance by First Nations Youth

Publication: Factors Affecting the Use of Student Financial Assistance by First Nations Youth

by NationTalk on August 21, 20081233 Views

Executive Summary

This report highlights the key findings from focus groups and key informant interviews completed for the Factors Affecting the Use of Student Financial Assistance by First Nations Youth study. The research was commissioned by the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation (“the Foundation”) to help support its mandate to improve access to post-secondary education (PSE). Specifically, the project was undertaken to gather information on the following areas:• First Nations youth use of post-secondary student financial assistance (SFA) programs;
• attitudes of First Nations youth toward SFA in general;
• potential barriers in the financial assistance application process; and
• adequacy of existing levels of financial assistance to encourage successful completion of PSE.

A key element of this research project was to distinguish between First Nations youth and non-First Nations youth with respect to their awareness and perceptions of available SFA programs, as well as to identify the extent to which First Nations youth have unique issues or challenges associated with accessing available SFA programs. In this context, the research approach included the in-depth exploration of issues through extensive consultation with First Nations and non-First Nations youth and stakeholders located in southern and central Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia, based on a qualitative research approach. As detailed below, the project represents a major effort to obtain detailed, descriptive information with respect to the challenges, issues and barriers associated with First Nations youth use of SFA programs and services.

The research was completed by R.A. Malatest &
Associates Ltd. and Dr. Blair Stonechild. The project
was designed to explore its research questions through multiple activities and sources. These
included:

• key informant interviews with 41 stakeholders involved in First Nations PSE (including student support workers, First Nations community members and government officials);
• 40 focus groups with First Nations and other youth;
• a review of documentation and literature relevant to Aboriginal access to PSE funding; and
• an environmental scan of available sources of post-secondary funding for Aboriginal students.

The report presents findings for the focus groups and key informant interviews.

Key Findings:

First Nations youth should not be viewed as a homogeneous population in terms of perceptions and awareness of and access to SFA programs and supports.

The results of the research suggest that there are numerous variables that affect First Nations youth awareness and understanding of and access to SFA. For example, youth who live on reserve typically associate SFA with “band funding” or funding available through the Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP) of Indian & Northern Affairs Canada (INAC); in contrast, First Nations youth who do not reside on a reserve or who are living far from their own band more often have a greater knowledge of a range of financial assistance programs.

In this context, while the report identifies numerous broad issues associated with First Nations youth perspectives on SFA, caution should be exercised with regard to how the findings can be extrapolated across the broad population of First Nations youth.

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