On Wednesday, Lakeland College and the MÃ©tis Education Foundation announced a long-term partnership that will see a $130,000 special purpose fund set aside for students of MÃ©tis heritage.
“We want to make sure that we can provide to as many of our students as possible,” said MÃ©tis Nation of Alberta provincial president Audrey Poitras. “And, of course, we know that students around this area come to Lakeland College, so it was important that we start discussions and see what we could do.”
For the next 15 years, beginning with the 2015-16 school year, Lakeland College will award two to four bursaries to MÃ©tis students, each worth between $2,500 and $3,500.
The MÃ©tis Education Foundation is contributing $103,000 to the endowment fund, while Lakeland College is pitching in $27,000.
“I’ve known some of the students that have two or three part-time jobs trying to go to school and trying to work,” said Lakeland College president and CEO Alice Wainwright-Stewart.
“When we have opportunities for bursaries and scholarships for them, they don’t often have to have that second job.”
Specific eligibility and application requirements for the bursaries have yet to be determined, but will involve standard mandates such as a MÃ©tis heritage, Canadian citizenship and a minimum grade point average. The foundation and the college are expected to collaborate on the rest of the requirements.
Of Lakeland College’s 1,900 students, 130 identify as aboriginal. However, the number of First Nations students at the college figures to be higher, as not every First Nations student declares as such.
Last year, 22 students that identified as MÃ©tis attended the school and were involved in various programs, including commerce, firefighting, agricultural business and university studies.
For Lakeland College, the agreement continues its history of associating with the aboriginal population, said Wainwright-Stewart.
“It’s pretty exciting to have another group of students that will be able to access funds that will help them with their education,” she added.
Meanwhile, the MÃ©tis Nation of Alberta hopes that the endowment marks the beginning of a long, prosperous relationship the college, much like the one it has developed with MacEwan University in Edmonton. The foundation recently renegotiated its agreement with MacEwan and added money to that fund to support more of the school’s MÃ©tis students.
“We expect the same kind of thing to happen with Lakeland College, the partnership is not just a one big ‘partnership-and-gone,’” said Poitras. “We expect to continue having meetings and talk about what they need, what we need, how we both can support it to continue moving the agreement we have.”
The MÃ©tis Education Foundation supports around 80 to 100 post-secondary students each year with scholarship and bursary money. Lakeland College awards around $1.2 million in scholarships and bursaries yearly.