Forum hears earful of complaints from students


Nunatsiaq News

IQALUIT Members of the GNWT’s student financial assistance panel heard an earful of complaints from students at Nunavut Arctic College’s Nunatta campus in Iqaluit last week.

The five panel members are Chairperson Louise Vertes, Ruby Jumbo, Jason Lepine, Judy Anilniliak, and Wendy Colpitts. They’re in their final leg of public hearings looking into how to reshape the GNWT’s student financial assistance progam.

They’ve recently held hearings in Inuvik and Yellowknife. In Iqaluit, residents gave a piece of their minds about how they felt the student financial assistance should be revamped.

Going hungry on financial assistance

One student from Pangnirtung who doesn’t want her name publicized said that she has to lie to her kids when they have meals.

She said she had already eaten when in fact she didn’t because her financial assistance payments were late in arriving and she was having trouble making ends meet.

A big concern that students expressed was that in the Baffin, assistance payments are always late, creating harships for many students especially single parents.

Regional administration?

Many suggested that a project officer who understands the program inside out be located in Iqaluit so that students can ask questions directly instead of calling Yellowknife.

Also, students agreed there should be some sort of coordination between different agencies who provide funding support to students.

One student in the Nunavut Teacher Education Program said student financial assistance has been a three-year headache for her.

Rosie Kupeuna from Holman Island said there was an overpayment on her salary, and she couldn’t get financial assistance because of government policy.

“I received my holiday pay and when it was time to go back to school, SFA turned around and said I can’t receive any funding because there was an overpayment,” Kupeuna said.

Kupeuna said she feels the GNWT is contradicting itself when it allows the student financial assistance program to get in the way of a good education.

Individuals, education councils and Inuit organizations had been invited to submit reports to the panel.

It’s now up to Dent

After the panel submits its report in October, Vertes said it will be up to Education Minister Charles Dent to decide where to go next.

“It has definitely helped the panel to hear and understand the concerns of students. We’ve been hearing different experiences of parents, spouses and students about some of the heartaches of SFA.” Vertes said.

The GNWT’s student financial assistance program has been criticized by the Auditor General of Canada, who in 1994 said there was concern about the sustainability of the program, its results, and management of the program’s costs.

Since 1990, there has been rapid growth in the numbers of students accessing the program and, as a result the cost of the program.

In 1990-91 1,107 students recieved $7.5 million in grants, loans, and scholarships.

In the 1995-96 academic year 2,052 students got $15.5 million.

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