Holding back tears, B.C. Premier John Horgan announced on Tuesday that hundreds of former youth in provincial care have received a provincial tuition waiver for post-secondary education and skills training.
“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,” Horgan said.
“The results have been inspiring. These young people were ready for opportunity, they just needed a path to a better future.”
The provincial tuition waiver program allows post-secondary institutions to waive tuition fees for children who were in care. The program covers a wide range of study programs and there is no income test to be eligible, no minimum course duration, course load, or maximum tuition fee coverage.
In total, 806 former youth in care are now accessing the system.
Makayla Waldenberger, who is studying at the University of the Fraser Valley in the bachelor of arts child and youth care program, is one of the students who has been supported by the program.
“Leaving the care system and finding your own way can be tricky, especially financially,” Waldenberger said. “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.”
In September 2017, Horgan announced the 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.
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.
“Our government believes in opening doors and creating pathways for students to thrive,” Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark said.
“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.”
Currently, there are about 7,500 children and youth 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. 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.