Category: Doug Graham Letters

Making Yukon’s Student Financial Assistance Even Better

Doug Graham, MLA for Porter Creek North

As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, August 26, 2016
by Doug Graham, Minister of Education

The Yukon government has been supporting Yukon students with funding for post-secondary education for more than 40 years. This year, we changed our student financial assistance program to make it even better, in particular the Yukon Grant. More grant money is now available for each student and a wider range of students can receive this support.

The reason why we have done this is simple. Yukon students are the key to our future and a good education will help them and our territory thrive.

The Yukon Grant is provided to all eligible students who are registered for full-time post-secondary studies at a designated college or university.

This year, the maximum yearly Yukon Grant amount is going up. Students enrolled in a 34-week program will receive $4,590 in Yukon Grant funding, compared to $3,740 last year. In addition, a $1,500 travel supplement is provided each academic year to those studying outside the territory. Students from Yukon communities outside Whitehorse are eligible for an additional travel amount.

We also broadened eligibility requirements in a number of ways.

For example, the amount of Yukon Grant a student receives is now being calculated on a weekly basis, which helps students who attend programs that are not part of a typical semester system.

The residency criteria now include more students. Eligible students must be resident for two years and either complete two years of high school (grades 8 to 12) or be resident here during their high school years. In the past, we have had long-term Yukon residents who did not attend high school but later gained entry into post-secondary education, and we couldn’t support them because they didn’t have two years of high school.

There is also good news for many Yukon First Nation students. Students who are receiving other forms of financial assistance, such as federal funding on behalf of a First Nation, can also now receive the Yukon Grant. This will benefit students who belong to Ross River Dena Council, Ta’an Kwäch’än Council, Kluane First Nation, Liard First Nation or White River First Nation.

Two of the most important changes help those attending Yukon College. They are now eligible for a larger Yukon Grant amount. And, if students choose to attend courses at Yukon College to upgrade for a post-secondary program, they may receive up to 68 weeks of the Student Training Allowance without using up any of their Yukon Grant eligibility.

It’s also worthwhile for them to look into support from the Student Training Allowance for other Yukon College programs, to determine whether the allowance or the grant will work better for them.

The comprehensive suite of changes was made through our new Student Financial Assistance Act, which was passed last spring. Our government began the process of reviewing and improving our legislation because we saw more and more high school students express interest in pursuing further education and, at the same time, tuition costs were rising across the country. We were committed to taking the time to listen to concerns with the previous student financial assistance system and ensure they were properly addressed.

Through an in-depth public engagement process, we received input from students, families, First Nation governments and other key stakeholders. This helped us develop improvements to ensure our program continues to help students, to be accessible, and to be effectively administered in a fiscally-responsible manner. We would like to once again thank those who took the time to provide this valuable input.

Our government is committed to ensuring funding is available to make post-secondary education more affordable for all eligible students, and we want to encourage all students to excel at their studies. With the hard work of students and our government’s commitment to support their endeavours, we believe the future of Yukon will be even brighter than it is today.

For more details about the Yukon Grant and other types of student assistance, go to www.education.gov.yk.ca.

Celebrating students and graduates across the territory

Doug Graham, MLA for Porter Creek North

As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, June 10, 2016
by Doug Graham, Minister of Education

As the Minister of Education, and on behalf of my Yukon Party Caucus colleagues, I want to first take the opportunity to congratulate all our graduating students across the territory. Whether you are moving from elementary to secondary school, earning your high school diploma, or completing a program at Yukon College or elsewhere, we applaud you for all you have accomplished over the course of the school year.

These past few weeks, my colleagues and I have been honoured to attend your graduation events across the territory and to congratulate you in person. We have met many exceptional students who will certainly go on to do great things.

In particular, I want to recognize the students and graduating class of F.H. Collins Secondary, who underwent a huge transition this year. Your ability to make the move to a brand new building in the middle of a school year and take it in your stride is remarkable.

I also want to recognize all First Nations graduates who have worked to be proud representatives of your heritage and values throughout your school careers. The Premier and his wife attended this year’s First Nations graduation ceremony, and were very impressed with all the students as well as the inclusion of First Nations culture in the ceremony as well.

F.H. Collins Opening

Education Minister Doug Graham at the official opening of the new F.H. Collins Secondary School, greeting his old friend and former F.H. student Joe Jack and congratulating him on his recent post-secondary degree.

Some of this year’s high school graduates will depart to obtain a degree outside Yukon, while others will take advantage of the many post-secondary programs offered by Yukon College. Wherever graduates go, the Department of Education provides support to enhance their potential for academic success.

For those remaining in the territory, exciting things are happening at Yukon College.

Our government has committed $1.5 million over three years to help the college work toward becoming Yukon’s first university.

In addition, we have dedicated $1.25 million for further development of the Yukon College campus, including work to repair the building envelope, upgrade lighting and enhance accessibility. Planning for further changes is also underway.

The coming academic year brings improvements to the Student Financial Assistance Act, particularly in regard to eligibility requirements and distribution of the Yukon Grant. While I encourage all students and their families to visit the Student Financial Assistance site and read all the changes, I have included a few highlights below.

Under the new Act, there will no longer be restrictions on receiving the Yukon Grant if you are also funded by the Government of Canada or your First Nation, and the grant will now be calculated on a weekly basis, allowing a maximum of 170 weeks of funding. Likewise, if you receive the Student Training Allowance for upgrading, you may now receive 68 weeks of additional funding without using any of the 170 weeks allocated toward the Yukon Grant.

These changes were brought forward and passed in the Yukon Legislative Assembly to address concerns from students, educators, First Nation governments and a number of other stakeholders. They will ensure that funding for all Yukon students enrolled in post-secondary education is distributed in an equitable, yet fiscally-responsible way.

While our government has been working diligently to improve support for post-secondary students, we are also always working hard for our elementary and high school students here at home.

This year’s budget offers $520,000 to Yukon school councils to cover a portion of the expenses for essential school supplies, to reduce the financial burden on families who face many costs at the start of a school year.

Once the essential supplies have been provided, school councils will work with their schools and spend any remaining dollars based on the unique needs of their school communities. For example, the money could cover school fees or costs associated with extra-curricular activities such as sports teams or school clubs.

Our government’s commitment to students is based on the knowledge that they will become the future leaders of this territory and this country.

My message to students is that we want to provide the best possible environment for your academic success, and continue to work together with you, your educators and your families to ensure that you are getting all that you can out of your education. My colleagues and I look forward to seeing each and every one of you excel through your innovation, intelligence and creativity, and we wish you the best in your future endeavours.

Education is the best path to a bright future

Doug Graham, MLA for Porter Creek North

As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, April 29, 2016
by Doug Graham, Minister of Education

In our 2011 platform document, Moving Forward Together, our government made a commitment to provide Yukon students with the fundamental skills necessary to prepare them for jobs, responsible citizenship and life-long learning. This is an important part of our overall vision for a better quality of life for Yukoners.

We believe that education is key to developing an inclusive, adaptable, and productive workforce that contributes to and strengthens the Yukon’s economy. We call it “educating today for jobs tomorrow.”

We also committed to improving access to funding that makes post-secondary studies more affordable for Yukon students.

For this reason, we introduced a new Students Financial Assistance Act in the Yukon Legislative Assembly earlier this month. The revised act includes significant changes to the rules governing the Yukon Grant.

For decades, the Yukon Grant has provided Yukon students with the financial assistance they need to pursue post-secondary studies. I personally benefitted from the grant when I attended university in the 1960s, as have tens of thousands of Yukoners.

Last year alone, the grant provided more than $3.4 million in non-repayable grants to 726 students.

Currently, the Yukon Grant provides students with $1870 per semester or $1247 per quarter, depending on the length of the academic year. Students can receive up to 10 semesters of funding over their lifetime, provided they continue to meet eligibility requirements.

Under the new act, the Yukon Grant will pay students $135 for each week they are enrolled in school, to a maximum of 170 weeks.

This change to the payment schedule will result in an annual funding increase for most students enrolled in a typical two-semester, full-time program. It will also benefit students who are enrolled in programs that run longer than eight months per year, who are currently put at a disadvantage by the semester-based system.

The amendments will also provide additional funding to residents of the territory attending Yukon College. Students who are enrolled in typical thirty-four week program will see a grant increase of $850.

The Yukon Grant also currently provides an annual travel allowance of $1800 for students who are studying outside the territory. The new act will reduce this amount to $1500 per year, but this reduction is offset by the above-mentioned increase to the grant.

Overall, these changes will increase the financial assistance available to Yukon students by $376,000 in the coming year – an increase of more than ten per cent over 2014/15.

These changes to the legislation include more than a simple funding increase.

Under the proposed amendments, to be eligible for the Yukon Grant students must have completed at least two years of high school (or the equivalent) in Yukon, and they or their parents must be residents of Yukon.

And students who lived in Yukon for their high school years, but who did not attend or complete high school, will also be eligible to receive funding if they meet post-secondary entrance requirements and the other eligibility requirements that all students must meet to receive the Yukon Grant.

These changes represent a significant change to the eligibility requirements, ensuring that funding is distributed in a flexible and equitable way to current and future Yukon post-secondary students.

The new act also expands eligibility for the Yukon Grant to more First Nations citizens. Currently, the citizens of First Nations who receive post-secondary education funding through the Government of Canada are not eligible for the Yukon Grant. These changes will ensure that all Yukon First Nations students who meet eligibility requirements are able to receive financial assistance through the Yukon Grant.

When the act was tabled, Kluane First Nation Chief Math’ieya Alatini noted that it “reflects a huge improvement in the legislation,” demonstrating the importance of post-secondary education to Yukon’s future.

We brought this new act forward following extensive consultation with students, their families, First Nation governments and other stakeholders.

We listened to Yukoners, and we believe these changes to student financial assistance will ensure that more students can pursue their goals of a better education and a brighter future.

New F.H. Collins a warm, modern space for Yukon students

Doug Graham, MLA for Porter Creek North

As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, January 15, 2016
by Doug Graham, Minister of Education

Just before the holidays, former and current students gathered at the old F.H. Collins Secondary School building, where fond memories were shared and goodbyes were made to a much-loved school that, for 53 years, was a place of learning for generations of Yukoners.

Although some may have shed a tear or two as they said their goodbyes, there was also great excitement in the air as people got their first tour of the brand-new school next door.

Last Wednesday night, I was proud to speak at the official opening ceremony for the new F.H. Collins, a warm, inviting and modern space that will serve Yukon students well for years to come.

I was so pleased to see that the transition from the old school to the amazing new facility has gone so smoothly. Though it’s only been two weeks, students and teachers are already making it feel like home, and you could tell that new and lasting memories are already being made there.

One of this government’s priorities is making strategic investments in Yukon’s infrastructure, and this project was at the top of our list, as the old building was nearing the end of its life cycle.

I’m pleased to say that the new F.H. Collins was completed on time and on budget. We are working to make Yukon the best place to live, work, play and raise a family, and investing in education is one of the best ways to meet that goal.

Education is an investment in our future. For individual students, it’s the path to employment, a sense of belonging and self-worth, and a better life. Education is also key to healthy families, healthy communities and a strong economy.

This is why we built a first-class school that supports modern practices in learning and teaching, where students can develop the skills they need to build successful careers and make positive contributions.

Staff and students can feel good about spending their school days in this space, which feels bright and warm even during these dark winter days.

The new building features a number of multi-use spaces that can be adapted for different programs and purposes. The foyer, for example, can also be used as a study space, a cafeteria dining area, or additional seating for events in the gym.

These kinds of flexible spaces encourage collaboration between classes, cross-curriculum projects and diverse hands-on learning opportunities.

The new F.H. Collins is also technology-ready. Mobile devices such as cell phones, iPads and tablets are everywhere these days, including in our schools. Education around the world is embracing this technology and the tools it offers to improve learning and engagement.

In each of the classrooms, students can broadcast their projects from their own devices onto a board for the class to see and discuss. The possibilities of the ready-to-use technology in the new school are truly impressive.

In every Yukon community, First Nations are important partners in delivering education, and there are of course many First Nations represented among the students of F.H. Collins.

The new school features an Elders’ lounge and a dedicated area for the First Nations educators and Education Support Workers. We’re very proud to offer this dedicated area for language, culture and traditional knowledge.

I would like to thank the project planners, managers, contractors, subcontractors and builders for the many months of hard work that went into this project. This team of professionals kept the project moving ahead on budget and on schedule.

Thank you to the educators, advisors, school council members and staff who collaborated, researched, planned and organized a successful transition to the new building. Thanks as well to former Minister of Education Elaine Taylor and to Minister of Highways and Public Works Scott Kent, who helped lead the way in making the new school a reality.

Just as the achievements of F.H. Collins alumni were celebrated at the closing celebration last month, I look forward to what today’s students will accomplish – supported by the dedicated staff, school community and these excellent, modern facilities.

A New Vision in Education – First Nations and French Language

Doug Graham, MLA for Porter Creek North

Letter to the Editor – Whitehorse Star, as submitted on Friday, September 11th, 2015
by Doug Graham, Minister of Education

With the change in the seasons and students getting back into the routine of going to school, it can be easy to forget the real purpose of education. We can all relate to — and may very well have been — that sleepy son or daughter who bemoans the sound of the morning alarm and wonders what it is all about. Getting lunches ready, sports equipment organized and dance lesson schedules sorted can leave parents breathless enough – without time to think about how education can change the world.

I take great pleasure in working as Minister of Education helping Yukon students and teachers strive for and achieve excellence within our education system. This means being concerned about everything from the physical buildings themselves and the ratio of teachers to students to the philosophy behind our curriculum.

You may have heard Premier Pasloski speak about our vision for education in his budget address last April. He said that our most important job as leaders today is to prepare the leaders of tomorrow. While the world is full of factors beyond our control we can strive to ensure that our children get the best education possible.

We are working to improve our curriculum so that it reflects the different aspirations of our diverse student body. It must also become more Yukon-centric. For although we do share much with our friends and neighbours in British Columbia, we are not them.

The improvements we are proposing require the input of Yukoners. To enact our vision, we are engaging with students, parents, teachers, school councils, First Nations, and other community and industry experts. This kind of engagement is not new to us. We have long been working in concert to improve and strengthen our education system. I would like to offer you two examples.

First, Yukoners may recall the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action that was released this past summer. In it, some 94 recommendations were brought forward. One of these recommendations was for governments to develop appropriate curriculum on residential schools. In the Yukon, we are already much further along this path than other jurisdictions in Canada. Our grade 10 Residential Schools Social Studies Unit, developed in partnership with former residential school students and Elders, is being studied with interest in the other provinces and territories. And we continue to look for ways to make improvements.

Another example of following through on our commitment to Yukon learners is our enhancement of the French immersion program. Fifteen youngsters began their education in their second official language this September as classes got underway at Selkirk Elementary School. Our government is currently developing a long-term plan for the delivery of French immersion education in Yukon and will be engaging with parents on the future of the program during the 2015/16 school year.

Looked at in isolation, the use of a Residential School curriculum and addition of French immersion classes may not seem like developments in “changing the world.” But they are. Developments and improvements like these enrich and inform the worldviews of our Yukon learners, equipping them for leadership in whatever path they take.