Frequently Asked Questions about Post -Secondary Funding for First Nation, Métis and Inuit Students

Q: I’m a First Nation’s student applying to a post-secondary institution. How do I find out if I am eligible for funding?
A:The first place you should contact for funding is your band or tribal council to see if you are eligible for band funding. For students affiliated with some bands, those with Bill C-31 status, or students who are Alberta residents (living in Alberta for 12 consecutive months prior to attending a post secondary program) with Indian status registered to a NWT-based First Nation and not eligible for funding from the Government of NWT Student Financial Assistance program due to residency, alternative funding may be access though organizations like Freehorse Family Wellness Society (http://www.freehorse.org ).

If you are, or have been a child in care, you can contact Advancing Futures (www.child.alberta.ca/home/915.cfm).

As a First Nations person, funding is not always easily accessible. You may need to find ways to pay for some or all of your education yourself. This may involve working while you are in school, taking out student loans, and applying for academic scholarships or bursaries (awards based on financial need). The Aboriginal Student Services Centre website has a current list of potential awards to consider (www.ualberta.ca/aboriginalservices ).

Q: I’m a Métis student applying to a post-secondary institution. Is there any funding available for me?
A:If you are Métis person affiliated with a settlement, you may be eligible for funding through your settlement. If you are not affiliated with a settlement, you can contact Métis Nation of Alberta to find out if there are scholarships or bursaries that you might qualify for (http://www.albertametis.com/MNAHome/Home.aspx ). Métis Employment Services offers a Métis Skills Development program that provides supports to Métis students entering the last year of a university degree ( www.metisemployment.ca/looking-for-training/skills-development ). The Belcourt Brosseau Métis Awards program also assists those students who demonstrate financial need (www.bbma.ca ).

Q:I’m an Inuit student applying to a post-secondary institution. Where do I go for financial support?
A:If you are or have been a resident of the Northwest Territories or Nunavut for more than 12 months, you can apply for funding with NWT Student Financial Assistance (NWTSFA), or Financial Assistance for Nunavut Students (FANS) respectively. Note: Amount of funding is based on length of residency in these territories. If you are an Alberta resident (living in Alberta for 12 consecutive months prior to attending a post secondary program) with Inuit status and not eligible for funding from the Government of the Northwest Territories or Nunavut student financial assistance programs due to residency, alternative funding may be access though organizations like Freehorse Family Wellness Society (http://www.freehorse.org ).

Q:I was told I was a priority 4 for funding. What does that mean?
A:Depending on the organization funding you, there may be a priority structure in place to determine who will receive funding first. Generally, priority is given in this order:
1. Continuing students (directly out of high school, or currently enrolled in post secondary studies).
2. Waitlisted students (have previously applied for funding but were not funded due to lack of funds).
3. Returning Students (have received previous sponsorship and have interrupted their studies for more than 1 academic term and are now continuing their studies).
4. New Students (applying for a post secondary program, have never received sponsorship before, but whose last period of studies was more than one term ago).
5. UCEP/ Upgrading (need grade 12 level courses before continuing on to a post –secondary program)
6. Probationary students (have withdrawn on theirown from their program of studies or have been required to withdraw by the institution).

Q:When should I apply for funding?
A:Sooner is always better…there is not one set date for all funders. A common deadline for fall term admission funding applications with many First Nation bands and tribal councils is mid May to June for Fall term admission, but each band determines their own funding deadlines so it’s important that you ask.

Q:Do I have to be living (or have lived at one time) on my reserve in order to be eligible for band funding?
A:It really depends on the rules set out by the band or tribal council and enforced by the education portfolio holder. Be sure to ask the post-secondary funding coordinator if you are eligible to receive funding, as well as if there is a priority structure that takes this factor into consideration. If you have not lived on reserve, it is important to explain or establish your connection to you community in your application. For example, you may not live on reserve, but your parents or grandparents or other relatives might. It is helpful to explain how you are connected to your reserve community.

Q:What portion of tuition will be paid by the sponsor?
A:Generally, when a student receives a sponsorship letter from their funding coordinator, it confirms the maximum tuition amount that will be covered for the term. This amount is usually sufficient to cover the required tuition and non-instructional fees, but depending on the program you are taking and the costs associated with it, it may or may not cover everything. Make sure you are aware of what you owe for the term and what your sponsor has committed to pay. You may be required as a funded student to opt out of certain fees, such as the student health care plan.

Q:Are living expenses and/or books covered by my sponsorship?
A:Generally, if you are a full time post-secondary student, your funding will include tuition, living allowance, and some funding towards books and supplies. However, each sponsor has a maximum amount of dollars that they can provide to you, so it’s a good idea to make a budget in advance to make sure the money you receive is going to be enough to cover all your costs. To get an idea of textbook costs, check out the U of A bookstore: http://www.bookstore.ualberta.ca

Q:What are the most important questions I should ask my post-secondary funding coordinator before I start school?
A:What is the minimum amount of courses I need to take in order to keep my funding?
(both credits and # of courses)
Do I get money to help offset the costs of moving to Edmonton to attend school?
What is the minimum Grade Point Average (GPA) I must maintain in order to continue to receive funding?
What happens if I fail or withdraw from a class?
Do you fund for spring/summer terms?
By which day each month and how will I receive my living allowance?
Will I receive a cheque for books and supplies, or is an account going to be set up for me the bookstore?
Do I need to apply for funding each semester or just once each academic year?
Do you make course load exceptions for students with learning disabilities?
Is there any additional funding available to help cover the costs of travel home for holidays or family emergencies?
Can I receive additional funding for adaptive technology, a computer, or travel abroad opportunities?

Q:What are my responsibilities as a sponsored student?
A:It is important that you take the time to read all of the information you receive from your sponsor. Often you will receive a student handbook that outlines what is required of you while you are a funded student. Depending on your sponsor, you may be required to be in regular contact with your funding coordinator and/or submit grade updates or attendance reports. You will need to submit a grade update as soon as it is available each term. It is also important to save any receipts you have for books or other out-of-pocket costs. It is also important to maintain good communication with your sponsor regarding any changes to your course load, and provide updates on successes or challenges during the term.

Q:I am already admitted to my program and registered in classes and I just found out I am not going to receive funding this year. What should I do now?
A:This is a difficult situation to be in, and circumstances can change quickly, so even if you think you will qualify for funding, you should always have a back up plan. Here are a few options to consider…first, you need to be realistic about your financial situation. You may choose to postpone your studies and try applying for funding again at a later date. You may also want to speak to your post-secondary coordinator and find out if there is anything you can do to improve your chances of being funded. Sometimes if you start post-secondary paying your own way, your priority increases as a waitlisted student. You may also want to consider applying for a government student loan just in case you don’t receive sponsorship (allow 6-8 weeks for the loan application to be processed).

Q:I received confirmation of my funding, but my band is now under 3rd party management. What does this mean for me?
A:Third-party management means an outside party is appointed to administer band funds on the reserve. This may or may not impact the time it takes for your tuition and fees to be paid, and may also mean that your monthly allowance will not be deposited for you on a consistent date each month. If this is the case, you may want to establish a reserve of funds, or try to pay your rent a month in advance so that you will not be negatively impacted if your funding does not arrive on time to pay bills each month.

Q:What happens if my funding doesn’t arrive in time, or is not enough to cover my expenses?
A:The U of A has a student financial aid centre that assists student with Emergency funding to cover living expenses until your funding arrives in the form of a short term interest free loan. You can also apply for a government student loan, even if you are receiving sponsorship, as a way to top-up your income and cover all of your expenses. It is also strongly encouraged for you to research and plan to apply for scholarships and bursaries as soon as you are admitted into post –secondary. The Aboriginal Student Services Centre is a great resource for assistance finding awards you might be eligible for.

Useful contact information for the University of Alberta

  • Aboriginal Student Services Centre
    2-400 Students’ Union Building
    Phone: 780-492-5677 Fax: 780-492-1674
  • U of A Registrar
    Administration Building
    Phone: (780) 492-3113 Fax: (780) 492-7172
  • U of A Financial Services (3rd Party billing)
    3rd Floor Administration Building
    Phone: 780-492-3000 Fax: 780-492-2846
  • U of A Bookstore
    Phone: 780-492-4215 or Toll Free 1-888-933-9133 Fax: 780-492-1726