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UNBC, Lheidli T’enneh ink deal to cover tuition costs for students

UNBC President Dr. Daniel Weeks and Lheidli T’enneh Chief Clayton Pountney sign a partnership agreement that will help students attend university. Bill Phillips photo

Sixty-eight Lheidli T’enneh students are enrolled in School District 57.

The chances they will attend the University of Northern British Columbia got better today with the signing of a ground-breaking partnership agreement between the Lheidli T’enneh Nation and the university.

The Northern Promise Partnership Program, believed to be the first of its kind in Canada, provides two options for members of the Lheidli T’enneh Nation to attend UNBC at no cost to the student.

“Eligible members will receive full tuition support to attend UNBC to complete an undergraduate degree,” said UNBC president Dr. Dan Weeks. “The Lheidli T’enneh Nation will then use the funding that they have to provide those students with housing, and books, and the kind of things they need to be successful students.”

The second program, called the The Lheidli T’enneh Northern Promise Partnership Transition Program, is available to Lheidli T’enneh identified students who do not meet the normal admission requirements for UNBC entrance, yet demonstrate strong academic promise, or wish a transition experience from high school or college to university. UNBC will provide full tuition support and the Lheidli T’enneh Nation will cover funding to support student needs.

Lheidli T’enneh Chief Clayton Pountney said they have been working on this for a while.

“This program is hopefully going to alleviate some of the barriers and get more of our students into to UNBC,” he said.

Pountney said currently there are two Lheidli T’enneh members attending UNBC and the hope is, with the partnership, there will be more in the future.

The partnership also dispels the myth that tuition is free for Indigenous People.

“That’s been out there for a long time and that’s just not true,” said Pountney. “We have to pay for the tuition and pay for the student to be housed and it’s not a huge amount so students sometimes have to take a secondary job to make ends meet.”

The partnership will have an impact on the UNBC budget, however, Weeks said it won’t  be a problem as the university will, essentially, forgo revenue.

“We can absorb the costs,” he said. “There are additional costs to us around counselling, career services. My hope is that this program is so wildly successful that maybe we do feel some pressure in those areas and we’re going to have to find additional resources … That would be a great problem to have.”

Lheidli T’enneh members interested in learning more about accessing these programs should contact the LTN Band office to discuss eligibility.

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