Premier Christy Clark announced $2 million Thursday to encourage more Aboriginal students to pursue masters and doctoral level degrees.
“Aboriginal people are a vital part of British Columbia’s future and contribute to our diverse, growing and strong economy,” said Clark, who made the announcement during closing remarks at the B.C. Cabinet-First Nations Leaders Gathering in Vancouver.
“These awards of up to $5,000 each per year will help open doors for more Aboriginal masters and doctoral students.”
Aboriginal masters and doctoral student awards are available to Aboriginal students studying at public universities in British Columbia. The awards are granted through the Irving K. Barber B.C. Scholarship Society.
Increasing the number of Aboriginal students enrolled in masters and doctoral programs is one of the goals of the province’s Aboriginal post-secondary education and training policy framework and action plan,” said Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson.
“These awards provide an incentive to Aboriginal students to take their education to next level, which will ultimately help to build stronger communities and new opportunities for Aboriginal people,” he said.
The provincial government established the B.C. Aboriginal Student Award in 2008 to improve educational access and achievement for Aboriginal people. The award supports Aboriginal students pursuing all levels of post-secondary education by reducing financial barriers. In 2012, government provided additional funding specifically for Aboriginal students pursuing masters or doctoral degrees.
Since then, 107 students have benefited from this special funding initiative aimed at assisting students to complete their masters and doctoral degrees. This year, the government is providing an additional $2 million to the Aboriginal Masters/Doctoral program.
Graduate studies at universities in British Columbia are in high demand and attract the best and brightest students from B.C., Canada and the world. B.C. universities offer many programs that provide financial aid to graduate students including scholarships, bursaries, teaching assistantships, research stipends, fellowships, awards and loans. Last year there were approximately 16,000 full-time equivalent student spaces in graduate programs at the four public research-intensive universities in B.C. – an almost 60 per cent increase since 2002-03.
“This announcement will benefit Aboriginal students pursuing masters or doctorial programs at universities such as UNBC,” said Senior Advisor to the President on Aboriginal Relations at the University of Northern British Columbia Rheanna Robinson. “Statistics show a gap between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal students at a graduate degree level. Anything we can do to close that gap is welcome news.”
B.C. Aboriginal students received 3,240 post-secondary credentials in 2013-14. While this has grown by 23 per cent, or 607 from 2009-10, only 5 percent of these were graduate credentials. A 2011 Statistics Canada national household survey indicated that 1.46 percent of Aboriginal persons aged 25 to 64 years received a masters degree, compared with 5.1 percent among the non-indigenous population.