AMS calls on UBC to match $1.25 million in Indigenous scholarships

The AMS is pushing for more of UBC’s Blue and Gold campaign donations to go towards scholarships for Indigenous students.

Since kicking off last year, the Blue and Gold campaign has raised over $50 million for student scholarships. The AMS is arguing that more of that money should be put towards needs-based scholarships for Indigenous students to uphold the school’s commitment towards reconciliation.

This includes calling on UBC to put $1.25 million towards matching scholarships for Indigenous students, especially for those who wouldn’t otherwise be able to attend the university.

According to AMS VP Academic and University Affairs (VPAUA) Max Holmes, the recommendations came up in a discussion circle with Indigenous students hosted by the society earlier this term.

“Many people brought the idea forward that the AMS needs to advocate for Indigenous scholarships at UBC, and so we’ve taken that to heart,” he said.

Hillary Gosselin, managing director of development at UBC Development and Alumni Engagement (DAE), said the university has raised over $670,000 for awards that are exclusively for Indigenous students since the campaign’s start.

One of the priority areas for the campaign that we have been promoting to donors is Centennial Scholarships for Indigenous students,” she wrote to The Ubyssey. “These renewable entrance awards were available to be matched by the university when the campaign launched.”

Gosselin also noted that DAE will continue to collaborate with Indigenous affairs leaders on campus to facilitate support for “new awards that meet the strategic objectives of the university and/or address areas where there are known funding gaps.”

But Holmes said more needs to be done to make UBC accessible for Indigenous students, like putting funding for Indigenous scholarships towards needs-based awards rather than merit-based ones.

He added that providing more scholarships could help encourage more Indigenous students to attend UBC.

Currently, only eight per cent of students at UBC Okanagan and three per cent of students at UBC Vancouver are Indigenous, said interim VP Students Andrew Parr in a November Board of Governors’ Indigenous Engagement Committee meeting.

“We have focused on moving that [UBC Vancouver] number, but it hasn’t moved a lot,” Parr said.

Ultimately, Holmes is hopeful about the advocacy effort.

“We would be even more encouraged if the university decided to do more than $1.25 million,” he said. “They don’t have to go with our number.”