Young people leaving foster care now will have access to free tuition at all 25 of British Columbia’s public post-secondary institutions, Premier John Horgan announced today.
“We want youth in our care system to know we are looking out for them and that we believe in their potential. That’s why we are expanding access to post-secondary education for youth aging out of care so they can thrive, not just survive,” said Premier Horgan.
This program – previously only available at 11 public post-secondary institutions – provides tuition waivers to former kids in care, who are less likely to have access to post-secondary education or training than young people who grew up with family supports.
“We’re in a position to make life better for young people who grew up without family stability,” said Premier Horgan. “By bringing down barriers to opportunity, and making advanced education more accessible, we can clear the path to success for these young people.”
Students accessing the program must be:
- from British Columbia;
- aged between 19 to 26 years; and
- have been in care for a minimum of 24 months.
“Education can mean the difference between a life in poverty or a life of prosperity. It’s an important equalizer because when we lift people up, all our communities benefit,” said Melanie Mark, Advanced Education, Skills and Training Minister. “Giving former youth in care the opportunity to access post-secondary education and skills training along with the tools needed to complete their studies will empower them to thrive.”
“Young people who have been in care should have the same level of support as other young adults do – that’s why we are providing a stronger foundation for them to achieve their goals through the tuition waiver program,” said Children and Family Development Minister Katrine Conroy. “Parents throughout British Columbia offer supports to their children after they reach 19. Youth in care need to know that we are looking out for them, too. That is why we are committed to further enhancing supports so we can be sure we’re helping all youth who age out, not just a few.”
The expanded tuition waiver program is the first of a number of improved supports government is developing for young people who have aged out of care.
“Former youth in care is a hard label to wear at times,” said Ruby Barclay, a fourth-year child and youth care student at Vancouver Island University. “Everyone says you learn a lot at university, but on top of the academic knowledge, I’ve also learned a lot about myself and my values and had the opportunity to explore my place in the world. Now my narrative is more than my past. I identify as a university student, professional and activist.”
The cost of waiving tuition will be covered by the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training for the remainder of fiscal 2017-18.
Any eligible student who already has paid fees for September enrolment will be refunded.
A more comprehensive program, with wrap around supports, is being developed in partnership with the Ministry of Children and Family Development, as part of the 2018-19 budget process.
For more information on supports currently available for youth aging out of care, please see Supports for youth formerly in government care.