The Northwest Territories's Aurora College is receiving an $8 million funding boost from the federal government to transition into a polytechnic university.
The money was announced in the federal 2021 budget and re-announced in a news conference Tuesday. It will be rolled out over two years.
Dan Vandal, the federal minister for northern affairs, said Tuesday that it will "help close the education gap" in the territory, which has a predominantly Indigenous population.
"Education touches on every aspect of life," said Vandal. He sees an opportunity to improve job opportunities and economic growth in the North through the funding.
The funding is also intended to help improve research in northern communities, with northern people in mind, through the support of the future polytechnic university.
R.J Simpson, the territory's minister of education, thanked the federal minister for acknowledging the importance of equitable education in the territory.
"Education is freedom," said Simpson. "The transformation of Aurora College into a polytechnic university will bring wide-ranging economic and social benefits to generations of northerners."
He said the funding announcement will bring better access to programming for all residents, in particular, for those who reside in the territory's smaller communities, and provide "more equitable opportunities."
Andy Bevan, president of Aurora College, said the transition will see a "university in the North and for the North."
Micheal McLeod, N.W.T.'s liberal MP, sees this as an opportunity to ensure a "brighter future for today's youth."
As Aurora College's transitions into a polytechnic university, it plans to to incorporate Indigenous knowledge into it's governance, along with its teaching and research.
In November, Yellowknife's city council said they hoped to see more ambitious goals from Aurora College, with councillor Julian Morse saying that the transition needs to be more than "just a refurbishment."
"I think that this is a moment for us to kind of highlight the risk of not being bold and what we could lose as a result," Morse said during the council meeting.
The transition into a university is expected to be complete by October 2026.