By Scott Strasser
The provincial government’s recent announcement about eliminating tuition fees has the thumbs up of North Island College (NIC) administrators.
On Aug. 8, British Columbia premier John Horgan announced the government will eliminate tuition fees for Adult Basic Education (ABE) and English language learning programs, effective immediately.
ABE includes high school-equivalency courses for adult learners who want to upgrade their education level. ABE courses are often a pathway to transferring into a university or trades program.
NIC acting president Lisa Domae said the college was “extremely happy” with the government’s announcement.
“Any decision that increases access to students for post-secondary education, particularly for those who are at the beginning of their educational career, we celebrate,” she said. “We welcome this opportunity for students to come in and pursue their post-secondary education tuition-free.”
In its last fiscal year there were 579 full-time ABE students enrolled at NIC, with 203 studying at the Courtenay campus. The college offers a variety of ABE classes in math, sciences and english, as well as several English language courses for adults.
“You could take anything from grade nine level all the way to what’s considered equivalent to grade 12 programming, in a wide variety of [subjects], including math, sciences, English [and] First Nations languages. There’s a whole spectrum of courses that we offer in ABE,” said Domae.
Horgan’s announcement reverses the previous government’s policy from 2015 that eliminated government subsidies for ABE programs. The Liberal Party policy allowed post-secondary institutions to set tuition fees for ABE and English language learners up to $1,600 per semester.
The NDP claims the old policy dramatically decreased enrolment figures for ABE courses. Domae said that was true in the case of NIC.
“We would say enrolment dropped off about 30 per cent,” she said. “We really do hope more interest will grow as a result of this decision.”
Tuition fees for ABE and English language students at NIC ranged from $110–$330 per course prior to Horgan’s announcement. Students were, however, able to apply for the Adult Upgrading Grant — a bursary that covered the cost of tuition, textbooks, supplies, student fees, transportation and unsubsidized childcare for eligible students.
The new policy means the province will have to provide backfill funding to post-secondary institutions to compensate them for lost revenue. Horgan said this amount will be revealed next month.
“They’re still working out what that’s going to look like,” said Domae. “Our real focus is that students don’t have to pay out of their pocket.”