EIGHT hundred and six former youth in care are now accessing post-secondary education and skills training through the Provincial Tuition Waiver Program, an increase of 326% since government launched the program.
“Leaving the care system and finding your own way can be tricky, especially financially,” said Makayla Waldenberger, who is studying at the University of the Fraser Valley in the bachelor of arts child and youth care program. “The tuition waiver program has helped open doors for me to post-secondary education. It has helped me seek my dream, and I’m excited for the future.”
Premier John Horgan, Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, and Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development, joined students, support staff, faculty and staff at the Douglas College Coquitlam campus to celebrate the increase and encourage more young people to access the program.
“With the tuition waiver program, and improved supports for children aging out of care, we hoped that youth in care would get the message that we believe in them and want to see them succeed,” said Horgan. “The results have been inspiring. These young people were ready for opportunity, they just needed a path to a better future.”
In September 2017, Horgan announced the Provincial Tuition Waiver Program for students who are former youth in care at all 25 public post-secondary institutions and the Native Education College. In July 2018, the program was expanded to foundation and apprenticeship training programs at 10 union-based training providers. Previously, there was no provincial standard.
In addition, government improved agreements with young adults that provide financial supports to former youth in care who are pursuing education or life skills training by increasing benefit amounts and eliminating breaks in coverage.
“Our government believes in opening doors and creating pathways for students to thrive,” said Mark. “The tuition waiver program is about breaking down barriers and creating conditions that will empower former youth in care to advance their dreams in careers that they love. In many cases, these young people have faced tremendous injustices and have shown tremendous resilience through their journey to graduate from high school. I am so proud of all the students who have and will embrace this educational opportunity to write a new and positive chapter in their lives.”
Since September 2017, 806 former youth in care have benefited from the Provincial Tuition Waiver Program, compared to 189 youth in 2016-17 under the initial voluntary program.
Students are enrolled in a wide range of programs throughout the province, such as social work, academic arts, nursing, pre-medical studies, trades, business administration and graphics design.
The three schools with the most students attending and participating in the Provincial Tuition Waiver Program are Vancouver Island University (93), Camosun College (90), and the University of the Fraser Valley (62). At Douglas College, 57 students are benefiting from the program.
Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development, said: “For too long, youth aging out of care lacked the proper programs and services to help them successfully transition into adulthood. We are changing that by providing new supports including the successful tuition waiver program and expanding agreements with young adults. We are also engaging with youth in and from care to help us develop transition supports that all young people have access to when they need them.”
Sarah Dench, associate vice president, academic and student affairs, Douglas College, said: “The number of former youth in care accessing educational opportunities at Douglas College has increased significantly since the inception of this program. The enthusiastic response to the program is truly wonderful, and we are committed to providing these students – and all of our students – with the support needed to have an inspiring and relevant educational experience.”
Karen Chhabra, student support navigator, Douglas College, noted: “In my day-to-day interactions with students with care experience, they’ve shared they feel a sense of belonging, created meaningful relationships on campus and they are excited about their futures. This program, in concert with my newly created position at Douglas College, is making the transition into post-secondary easier, with a clear focus on student success.”
* About 7,500 children and youth are in the care of the Province or on youth agreements.
* An estimated 2,200 former youth in care aged 19-26 are in the public post-secondary system.
* Every year, 750 to 1,000 youth age out of care.
* To be eligible for the Provincial Tuition Waiver Program, students must be aged 19-26 and must have been in care in B.C. for a minimum of 24 months.
Provincial Tuition Waiver Program: https://gov.bc.ca/