/R E P E A T -- Federal Budget Ignores Plight of Aboriginal Students/

OTTAWA, March 4 /CNW Telbec/ - Today's federal budget fails to address the significant gap in post-secondary participation between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples.

"Education is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty," said Jaden Keitlah, Chairperson of the National Aboriginal Caucus of the Canadian Federation of Students. "Each year underfunding shuts out thousands of qualified Aboriginal students from college and university."

The federal government currently provides financial assistance to status First Nations and Inuit students through the Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP). Despite Aboriginal peoples being the fastest growing demographic in Canada and virtually across the board tuition fee increases, funding for the program has been capped at 2% growth per year. As a result, thousands of eligible Aboriginal students have been unable to afford to attend college and university. In addition, non-status First Nations and Métis students are currently ineligible for funding through the PSSSP.

"Funding disbursed through the PSSSP has a proven track record for those who can access it," added Keitlah. "The cost of sitting idly by will far exceed the cost of meeting our treaty obligations to provide access to education for Aboriginal peoples."

The National Aboriginal Caucus has called for the 2% cap on PSSSP funding to be lifted since it was first implemented in 1996. In its budget submission the Caucus called for the cap to be lifted, funding to be provided to students who had been denied in previous years and eligibility to be extended to Métis and non-status First Nations learners.

Founded in 1981, the Canadian Federation of Students is Canada's largest student organisation, uniting more that one-half million students from ten provinces. The National Aboriginal Caucus is the voice for Aboriginal students in Canada with members on campuses from St. John's to Victoria.

SOURCE Canadian Federation of Students

For further information: For further information: Jaden Keitlah, National Aboriginal Caucus Chairperson, (613) 232-7394; Katherine Giroux-Bougard, Canadian Federation of Students Chairperson, (613) 232-7394

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