Yukon government committed to education

Doug Graham, MLA for Porter Creek North

As submitted to the Whitehorse Star on Friday, February 6th, 2015
by Doug Graham, Minister of Education

On New Year’s Day, former Education Minister Elaine Taylor had the distinct pleasure of awarding Governor General’s Academic Medals to top achieving Yukon students. It was an honour for her to recognize these young people for their outstanding academic performance, and they should be proud of their remarkable achievements.

Education is a top priority for this government and we recognize the importance of student financial assistance in helping Yukoners to further their life-long learning journey. We are committed to providing access to funding that makes it more affordable for Yukon students to pursue post-secondary studies. We provided $4.3 million in annual funding to approximately 980 Yukon post-secondary students during the 2013/2014 academic year. This helps give Yukon students a significant financial advantage as they pursue higher education.

Last December, my colleague, Watson Lake MLA Patti McLeod tabled a motion in the Yukon Legislative Assembly, urging the Government of Yukon to seek public input on changes to the Students Financial Assistance Act for fair, equitable and fiscally- responsible methods to enhance access to financial assistance for current and future Yukon post-secondary students. Members of the house debated the motion and it passed with unanimous consent.

We are therefore going forward asking Yukoners how to best update the Students Financial Assistance Act. The input of students, their families, and other key stakeholders will help us ensure that our financial assistance program continues to be accessible and to be effectively administered.

In addition to the upcoming consultation on the Students Financial Assistance Act, Yukon students and families may also be interested in learning about some important changes we have made to the Yukon Excellence Award Program.

The Award Program will be broadened to include more types of courses and consider course performance rather than focus strictly on final exams. Previously, the Excellence Awards focused on exam performance in language arts, mathematics, social studies and science. Under the new rules, scholastic performance in art, music, shop, home economics and outdoor education will also be considered.
Awards in the amount of $300 for each subject can be earned by students in Grades 10 to 12 who achieve a final overall mark of 80 per cent or higher in up to five mandatory and five elective courses. This will apply to a maximum of four Grade 10 courses, three Grade 11 courses and three Grade 12 courses, for a maximum total amount of $3000.

Why are these changes needed? We want to encourage more students to go into the trades and to explore all available post-secondary options. The Yukon Excellence Awards encourage Yukon secondary students to do well in their coursework and earn financial support for their post-secondary education or training. They promote Yukon Education’s goal for success for each learner and help create an inclusive, adaptable and productive workforce that meets the needs of Yukon employers.

Post-secondary students have a significant advantage in that they can also apply for the Yukon Grant. Currently, between 750 and 800 students per year receive this grant. Grant recipients attending college in the territory receive approximately $3700 per year, with those attending institutions outside the territory receiving additional funding for travel expenses.

Information about student financial assistance and academic merit awards can be found on our departmental website at http://www.education.gov.yk.ca.

I would like to reiterate the importance of lifelong learning. There is never a bad time to improve your academic credentials or make yourself more employable. This government is deeply committed to encouraging lifelong learning and enhancing students’ access to post-secondary education opportunities.