Grants and contributions to support the First Nations Post-Secondary Education Strategy

Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is committed to working collaboratively with Indigenous partners in transforming the way the department adapts and implements policy and program reform. These terms and conditions have been discussed with and informed by First Nations convened by the Assembly of First Nations.

On December 3, 2018, the Assembly of First Nations Special Chiefs Assembly passed Resolution #05/2018, which supported the First Nations Post-Secondary Education Policy Proposal to the Government of Canada. In developing these terms and conditions, First Nations partners have noted that they do not view this strategy as a matter of social policy and have asked that the following statements from the policy proposal be included:

First Nations assert their right and responsibility to direct and make decisions regarding all matters relating to First Nations lifelong learning as an inherent and treaty right.

First Nations assert an inherent and treaty right to education that is in accordance with their culture, values, traditions and languages to support holistic lifelong learning.

First Nations are seeking strengthened Government of Canada support for First Nations post-secondary education through treaty-based, self-government and regional models that enable First Nations control of First Nations education. Building on current best practices, the implementation of regional models will enable First Nations to holistically consider, design and implement a suite of integrated programs and services to comprehensively support post-secondary education attainment and success. Models must respect local control, honouring the autonomy of First Nations to dictate their own models that will not minimize flexibilities that First Nations communities currently have. These models, once created, must be First Nations directed and managed.

On this page

1. Introduction

1.1 Context

The purpose of these terms and conditions is to establish provisions for making grant and contribution payments for ISC’s First Nations Post-Secondary Education Strategy. While previous versions of these terms and conditions have outlined programming that supported both First Nations and Inuit post-secondary students, ISC’s new distinctions-based approach to Indigenous post-secondary education provides for new strategies to support both Inuit and Métis Nation post-secondary students. These terms and conditions have therefore been renamed Grants and Contributions to Support the First Nations Post-Secondary Education Strategy and support programming for First Nations only. Two separate sets of terms and conditions will now support Inuit post-secondary and Métis Nation post-secondary strategies.

Funding provided through the First Nations Post-Secondary Education Strategy supports access to and participation in post-secondary education. Through engagement and partnerships, it will also advance the development and implementation of post-secondary education regional models supporting First Nations control of First Nations education in accordance with First Nations priorities.

1.2 Scope of programming

The First Nations Post-Secondary Education Strategy consists of 4 components:

  • Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP)
  • University and College Entrance Preparation Program (UCEPP)
  • Post-Secondary Partnerships Program (PSPP)
  • Engagement toward the development of First Nations regional post-secondary education models

Since the early 1960s, as a matter of social policy, ISC has been supporting First Nations access to, and participation in, post-secondary education. There is a persistent gap between First Nations post-secondary education attainment and that of other people in Canada, a gap that has widened over the last 2 decades. Support for First Nations post-secondary education will support the Departmental Results Framework, which seeks to ensure that Indigenous students receive a comprehensive and quality education with the longer-term goal of closing socio-economic gaps.

Quality and culturally appropriate education is a cornerstone of the preservation and vitality of First Nations. First Nations maintain that access to post-secondary education and lifelong learning is essential for First Nations students to realize their fundamental human rights. Strategies to support post-secondary education aligns with federal commitments to First Nations through the United Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's 94 Calls to Action by advancing self-determination and moving toward a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership.

Funding approaches for transfer payments under post-secondary education program components are summarized as follows:

  Grant payments Contribution payments
Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP) YES YES
University and College Entrance Preparation Program (UCEPP) YES YES
Post-Secondary Partnerships Program (PSPP)   YES
Engagement   YES

1.3 Spending authorities used under these terms and conditions

This strategy is delivered through 2 spending authorities: Grants to Support the First Nations Post-Secondary Education Strategy and Contributions to Support the First Nations Post-Secondary Education Strategy.

2. Legal and policy authority

3. Purpose, strategy objectives and expected results

3.1 The Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP)

3.1.1 Purpose/Objectives

The PSSSP provides non-repayable financial support for First Nations (Registered Indian) students to advance towards a recognized post-secondary education credential (including CEGEP; community college; undergraduate studies; advanced professional or post-graduate studies at eligible colleges and universities in Canada and abroad; and First Nations designated and directed institutions), as prioritized and directed by First Nations.

The program’s objectives are to improve socio-economic outcomes for First Nations by supporting First Nations in providing eligible students with funding to access education opportunities at the post-secondary level, consistent with the principle of First Nations control of First Nations education. The overall aim of the program is to provide an inclusive and quality education by closing the education gap between First Nations and non-Indigenous Canadians.

3.1.2 Expected results

The results of this program will enable First Nations students to achieve levels of post-secondary education comparable to non-Indigenous students in Canada.

3.1.3 Indicators

  • Number of students funded for post-secondary education
  • Percentage of eligible students who applied and received funding for post-secondary education
  • Percentage of students who were partially funded
  • Percentage of students who continue to be funded beyond the first year of their program of study
  • Percentage of funded First Nations students with a post-secondary certificate, diploma or degree
  • Number of funded First Nations students who graduate with a post-secondary certificate, diploma or degree
  • Percentage difference between First Nations and non-Indigenous adults (25-64) with a post-secondary certificate, diploma or degree

3.2 The University and College Entrance Preparation Program (UCEPP)

3.2.1 Purpose and objectives

UCEPP provides non-repayable financial support for First Nations (Registered Indian) students who are enrolled in accepted university and college entrance preparation programs to enable them to attain the academic level required for entrance into degree and diploma credit programs, as prioritized and directed by First Nations.

3.2.2 Expected results

The results of this program will enable First Nations students to achieve levels of post-secondary education comparable to non-Indigenous students in Canada.

3.2.3 Indicators

  • Number of students funded for UCEPP
  • Percentage of UCEPP participants who transition to a post-secondary program

3.3 Post-Secondary Partnerships Program (PSPP)

3.3.1 Purpose and objectives

The PSPP provides funding to support First Nations to define their own partnerships with institutions to increase the availability of post-secondary education programs tailored to First Nations cultural and educational needs. The overall aim of the program is to increase the number of First Nations students pursuing post-secondary education and thereby contribute to closing the education attainment gap.

The PSPP is a First Nations-directed and regionally delivered program that supports First Nations-established post-secondary education institutions and First Nations-directed community-based programming. First Nations and organizations designated by First Nations will set criteria for funding and will adjudicate based on regional priorities to support First-Nations established post-secondary institutions or community-based programming.

This component supports and respects the principle of First Nations control of First Nations education by providing funding for First Nations-directed support for First Nations-established institutions and community-based programming. This approach will improve the delivery of post-secondary education and will improve access to post-secondary education for First Nations students.

3.3.2 Expected results

The results of this program will enable First Nations students to achieve levels of post-secondary education comparable to non-Indigenous students in Canada.

3.3.3 Indicators

  • Percentage of First Nations communities and their organizations that have increased post-secondary education capacity in one or more key areas of need, such as language and culture
  • Percentage of programs funded and delivered through PSPP
  • Percentage of First Nations communities served through the delivery of programs
  • Number of students directly benefiting from the delivery of programs
  • Percentage of students directly benefiting from a PSPP funded program who successfully completed the course

3.4 Engagement toward the development of First Nations regional post-secondary education models

3.4.1 Purpose and objectives

The purpose of engagement on the First Nations Post-Secondary Education Strategy is to develop comprehensive First Nations regional post-secondary education models that deliver supports to students. This may include First Nations treaty-based, regional, or self-government-based post-secondary education models.

3.4.2 Expected results

Results include the development of regional post-secondary education models that reflect and are responsive to First Nations' local priorities.

3.4.3 Indicators

  • Percentage of First Nations that participate in engagement according to the engagement plan
  • Number of regional post-secondary education models established that deliver supports to students

4. Recipient eligibility

For sub-sections under eligibility, meeting the eligibility requirements does not guarantee funding. Grants and contributions funding is not available to First Nations students who are eligible for assistance under land-claims agreements, sectoral self-government agreements, or self-government agreements, inclusive of post-secondary education support. However, self-governing First Nations are eligible to benefit from the funding where identified in their respective agreements.

4.1 Eligible Recipients

4.1.1 Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP) and University and College Entrance Preparation Program (UCEPP)

4.1.1.1 Contribution funding

Eligible recipients under PSSSP and UCEPP are:

  • Band councils of recognized First Nations bands
  • Organizations designated by band councils: bands or settlements, tribal councils, education organizations, political or treaty organizations engaged by or on behalf of First Nations
  • Self-governing First Nations in Yukon that have not yet assumed responsibility for post-secondary education through a programs and services transfer agreement or through the terms of their self-government agreement

In addition, ISC may also enter into funding agreements with funding agreement managers and recipient appointed advisors (in accordance with Indigenous Services Canada's Default Prevention and Management Policy) to administer PSSSP or UCEPP programming funds jointly with or on behalf of a First Nations.

4.1.1.2 Grant funding

Recipients are eligible for grant funding from these programs where student support is provided directly by ISC. These may be students or a post-secondary institution where warranted for the direct payment of fees.

4.1.2 Post-Secondary Partnerships Program (PSPP): contributions only

Eligible recipients are:

  • band councils of recognized First Nations bands
  • organizations designated by band councils: bands or settlements, tribal councils, education organizations, political or treaty organizations engaged by or on behalf of First Nations, First-Nations established post-secondary institutions
  • the First Nations University of Canada

4.1.3 Engagement toward the development of First Nations regional post-secondary education models

Eligible recipients are:

  • band councils of recognized First Nations bands
  • organizations designated by band councils: bands or settlements, tribal councils, education organizations, political or treaty organizations engaged by or on behalf of First Nations
  • self-governing First Nations in Yukon that have not yet assumed responsibility for post-secondary education through a programs and services transfer agreement or through the terms of their self-government agreement

4.2 Eligible students: PSSSP and UCEPP

To be eligible for funding, students are status First Nations (Registered Indians) and maintain satisfactory academic standing within an eligible post-secondary institution.

4.3 Eligible institutions: PSSSP and UCEPP

Eligible post-secondary institutions are degree, diploma or certificate granting institutions that are recognized by a province or territory in Canada or abroad. They include educational institutions affiliated with, or those that deliver post-secondary programs by arrangement with, a post-secondary institution, as well as First Nations-designated and directed institutions.

5. Eligible expenditures

5.1 PSSSP and UCEPP

5.1.1 Program expenditures

Eligible expenditures for the PSSSP and UCEPP include:

  • actual administration costs proportional to resources used are not to exceed 15% of total expenditures that are required to directly administer the PSSSP and UCEPP. These may include, but are not limited to:
    • salaries and benefits of personnel
    • materials and resources for the management of funds
    • the collection, maintenance, safeguarding and reporting of data and information in accordance with program and financial reporting requirements
    • rent and utilities
    • communications costs, including printing and web presence
    • travel and accommodation
  • student grants for academic and living expenses associated with pursing a post-secondary education credential at an eligible post-secondary institution. These may include, but are not limited to:
    • transcript and application fees
    • tuition and other student fees
    • initial professional certification and examination fees
    • books and supplies
    • supplemental tutorial, guidance and counselling services
    • scholarship and incentive payments
    • living expenses, including for dependents if applicable
    • expenses associated with travel home, including for dependents if applicable
    • child care, as needed

Retroactive funding is not permitted for studies in a previous fiscal or academic year.

5.2 Post-Secondary Partnerships Program (PSPP)

5.2.1 Program expenditures and administration costs

Eligible expenditures for PSPP include the direct costs of First Nations and First Nations established post-secondary education institutions to develop and deliver post-secondary education programming for First Nations students that leads to the attainment of a post-secondary education credential. This may include, but is not limited to:

  • salaries and benefits of personnel
  • costs associated with the development and publication of learning and instructional materials, including in partnership with recognized institutions
  • costs associated with improved access to language and culture to support life-long learning
  • costs associated with First Nations directed adjudication processes at the regional level
  • rental of facilities to host post-secondary activities
  • incremental operational costs
  • administration costs, not to exceed 15% of total costs

5.2.2 Ineligible costs

Capital and maintenance costs are ineligible under PSPP. Other ineligible costs are permanent staff salaries, student tuition, student books and supplies.

5.3 Engagement toward the development of First Nations regional post-secondary education models

Eligible expenditures include all activities related to engagement toward, and the development of, regional First Nations post-secondary education models including, but not limited to:

  • delivering information sessions to improve knowledge and expertise related to post-secondary education programming
  • research and consultation
  • convening tables to explore potential options for regional post-secondary education models
  • service mapping
  • negotiating clear and defined roles and responsibilities of First Nations and First Nations-designated organizations
  • establishing mutual accountability mechanisms with clear objectives, performance indicators and reporting expectations

6. Total Canadian government funding and stacking limits

Total maximum government assistance for the same purpose and eligible expenditures shall not exceed 100% of the eligible expenditures.

7. Method for determining the amount of funding

For all programs, funding must remain within the maximum amount payable as outlined in section 8.

7.1 Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP) and University and College Entrance Preparation Program (UCEPP)

The method for determining the amount of funding for PSSSP and UCEPP is based on funding formulae which take into account such factors as historical funding trends, demographics, size and/or socio-economic conditions of recipient communities.

7.2 Post-Secondary Partnerships Program (PSPP)

For PSPP initiatives, funding allocations are determined by a two-step process. First, regional allocations are made based on First Nations population distribution. Second, First Nations-designated and directed organizations in each region will work with Indigenous Services Canada in the adjudication and administration of allocations according to program guidelines. Indigenous Services Canada’s regional offices will support and implement the final decisions.*

*Where First Nations in a region have designated an organization to take over adjudication and administration of the program’s funding in their region, the organization will enter into an agreement with Indigenous Services Canada that defines the roles and responsibilities of all parties, provides clear objectives, and outlines reporting requirements.

7.3 Engagement Toward the Development of First Nations Regional Post-Secondary Education Models

For engagement toward the development of regional First Nations post-secondary education models, funds will be allocated using a proposal-based system to determine the eligibility of activities and to prioritize the allocation of resources.

8. Maximum amount payable

Maximum amounts payable may increase by no more than 2% per year or the increase in ISC’s reference level as appropriated by Parliament. (Base Year: FY 2019-2020).

8.1 Post-Secondary Student Support Program (PSSSP) and University and College Entrance Preparation Program (UCEPP)

The maximum amount payable per full-time student under PSSSP or UCEPP cannot exceed $53,000 per year.

The maximum amount payable per student does not represent an entitlement. The actual amount of funding will depend on the overall amount of funding in the program and the number of recipients selected.

On an extraordinary and justified basis, full-time graduate students in an advanced professional degree program (such as dentistry or medicine) or a masters or doctoral program may be awarded funding in excess of $53,000 up to a maximum of $90,000 per year. Such awards may be granted by special request on a case-by-case basis only and considered when a graduate student has extraordinary circumstances that warrant the setting aside of the standard policy on maximum amounts payable.

Part-time students, as defined by the post-secondary institution being attended, may receive assistance for tuition, fees, and the cost of books and supplies. Part-time students may be awarded assistance for living allowances or travel, typically at a pro-rated amount.

8.2 Post-Secondary Partnerships Program (PSPP)

The total amount paid for all projects in the PSPP component cannot exceed 12% of the total allocation for post-secondary education.

The maximum amount payable to PSPP recipients normally will not exceed $500,000. Exceptions will be determined by First Nations-designated and directed organizations, based on First Nations priorities.

The maximum amount payable for ongoing support to the First Nations University of Canada is $7 million.

8.3 Engagement toward the development of First Nations regional post-secondary education models

The maximum amount payable to for engagement toward the development of First Nations regional post-secondary education models will not exceed $1 million.

9. Basis on which payments will be made

9.1 Contributions

Contribution progress payments and final payments will be made on the basis of one or a combination of the following:

  • reimbursement of eligible expenditures: payments to contribution recipients are made via regular progress payments based on reimbursement of eligible expenditures or via advance payments based on a cash-flow forecast
  • achievement of pre-determined performance expectations: certain progress payments and final payments are tied to the achievement of pre-determined performance expectations. The exact amount paid for each performance expectation achieved will be based on a pre-determined rate or percentage of total contribution amount to be negotiated prior to the development of said contribution agreement

9.2 Grants: PSSSP & UCEPP only

Grant payments for tuition, books, supplies and travel are one time payments made at the beginning of each academic term, while living allowances are paid monthly. All payments will be made based on eligible expenditures or via advance payments made in accordance with local operating guidelines.

10. Monitoring and accountability

Funding recipients must deliver the programs in accordance with the provisions of their funding agreement and the program delivery requirements outlined in these terms and conditions, communicated through program guidelines, while also ensuring that the necessary management controls are in place to manage funding and monitor activities.

Funding recipients are required to exercise due diligence when approving expenditures and must ensure that such expenditures are in accordance with the eligible expenditures set out in these terms and conditions.

ISC is accountable to provide funding to First Nations in a timely manner through grants and contributions payments under the First Nations Post-Secondary Education Strategy.

To ensure that strategy outcomes and objectives are being met and opportunities for continuous improvement are being identified with a goal to improve results for First Nations peoples, activities, including audits, evaluations and targeted strategy reviews (such as desk and on-site review) may be conducted with funding recipients. Ongoing, these activities may be developed through the regional post-secondary education strategies.

11. Application requirements and assessment criteria

The application requirements and assessment criteria are set out in the National program guidelines, updated and published annually, in collaboration with First Nations.

For the First Nations Post-Secondary Education Strategy, there is no application process required between ISC and the recipient. It is rather based on the established allocation of resources. There is nonetheless a requirement for an application process for students applying to the PSSSP and UCEPP and an application process for First Nations established post-secondary institutions for the PSPP in order to determine eligibility and to prioritize the allocation of resources.

Meeting the application requirements and assessment criteria outlined in the program guidelines does not guarantee funding.

12. Due diligence and reporting

12.1 Contributions

At a minimum, contribution recipients are required to submit an annual financial report that accounts for the use of funding in accordance with the terms of the funding agreements. The frequency of reporting will be based on the recipient risk and departmental directives.

In addition, to support a reduction in the reporting burden, performance measurement data will be collected annually using various methods and sources aligned with the performance measurement strategy for the First Nations Post-Secondary Education Strategy, reporting strategies that were discussed and refined with First Nations. Recipient performance reporting requirements will be set out in departmental recipient reporting documents and the frequency of reporting will be set out in each funding agreement.

12.2 Grants

ISC has procedures in place that enable it to observe due diligence in approving grant payments, in verifying recipients’ eligibility for grants and in managing and administering programs.

Recipients may be required to report, as appropriate, to support the Departmental Results Framework and other departmental reporting.

13. Official languages

ISC will take into account the relevant official languages obligation and comply with all applicable official language requirements stipulated in the Official Languages Act and the related regulations, as well as any new or existing federal government legislation and policies in this regard.

14. Intellectual property

Ownership of Indigenous intellectual property remains with the respective First Nations or individuals. Conditions for shared rights will be set out in the funding agreement as appropriate.

15. Repayable contributions

Provisions for repayable contributions do not apply. Any contributions made to private firms under these programs, initiatives and projects are not intended to generate profits or to increase the value of a business.

16. Redistribution of contributions

Where a recipient delegates authority or further distributes contribution funding to agency third party (such as an authority, board, committee or other entity authorized to act on behalf of the recipient), the recipient shall remain liable to the department for the performance of its obligations under the funding agreement. Neither the objectives of the programs and services nor the expectations of transparent, fair and equitable services shall be compromised by any delegation or redistribution of contribution funding.

Recipients have full independence in the selection of such third parties and will not be acting as an agent of the government in making distributions.

17. Other terms and conditions

National program guidelines: each program holds a corresponding set of ISC program guidelines, which include specific criteria supporting these terms and conditions. Recipients must act in compliance with the provisions outlined in these terms and conditions and program guidelines.

First Nations Post-Secondary Education Strategy recipients may issue local program guidelines provided they are consistent with the Terms and Conditions set out in this document. These guidelines will include information on the application and funding process, including a formal appeals mechanism. All prospective applicants must have access to these local guidelines.

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