Student help is on the way
Minister announces more money for tuition

Cindy MacDougall
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Feb 28/00) - Students with territorial grants and loans may have more money in their pockets next school year, but they better keep up their marks if they want to hold onto it.

Education Minister Jake Ootes introduced amendments to the Student Financial Assistance Act Friday. If approved, the amendments will increase tuition and book grants to students and increase the amount students can borrow or be granted to pay for their cost of living while attending college or university.

"We all know the costs for post-secondary education have been increasing over the past five years," said Ootes during a press conference Friday in Yellowknife.

To reflect that, the program will receive an extra $11 million over the next three years.

Students eligible to receive non-repayable grants will get $500 more each term for tuition. That means students taking two terms a year will receive $3,500 for tuition, explained Ootes.

The grant will also offer $300 for books each term, up $100 from the current assistance plan.

Non-aboriginal students who did not attend school in the North but are NWT residents can borrow equivalent amounts in a repayable loan.

All students will receive a 7.4 per cent increase in living allowance, which pays for rent, food and other necessities.

"This particular model puts more cash into students' pockets," said Mark Cleveland, deputy minister of Education, Culture and Employment.

The amendments came out of a series of public forums in 1997, along with consultation with MLAs, aboriginal groups and students, said Cleveland.

The new program will have a catch. Students who perform poorly, drop more than a quarter of their credits or drop out will be expected to pay back their loans or grants.

In the past, certain groups of students did not have to pay back any part of their loans, even if they dropped out.

"This program encourages students to succeed in their studies," said Ootes.

The final change to the program is who receives unconditional grants, which do not need to be repaid, and remissible loans, which may have to be repaid.

In the past, Metis and Inuit students received grants but had to pay taxes on the money. As status Indians, Dene students do not pay tax on the grants.

Ootes said Metis and Inuit students will now receive remissible loans, which are tax-free.

However, unlike Dene students, Metis and Inuit will be expected to come back to the NWT if they want their loan forgiven, just like non-aboriginal students.

Ootes said the switch solves the taxation problem for these students.

"The most balanced model is to do it this way," he said.

The proposed changes will continue to be discussed in the NWT legislature this week.