New Brunswick Community College (NBCC) has unveiled a $50,000 annual bursary program to eliminate tuition and fee barriers for former youth in care. The initiative is aimed at making higher education more accessible.
“I live off student loans, I’m a single mom. Not worrying about tuition is a really great thing,” said Veronica Roy, a former youth in care in New Brunswick.
Residents of New Brunswick regardless of age who have spent a year or more in foster or group home care are eligible. The criteria state candidates must be working towards completing their first post-secondary credential.
Zoe Bourgeois was adopted at 15 and says a bursary program like this one would have saved her tens of thousands in student loans.
“Take advantage of it, apply for a program that you’re passionate about,” said Bourgeois, a New Brunswick Youth in Care Network social worker.
Eligible students could receive up to a maximum of $5,000 annually.
“We have opportunities for people to do two years with us and then do two years of university so this may start a whole lifelong learning that they never even would have been able to get into without having this little bit of a bridge,” said Mary Ellen Kingston-Ritchie, the NBCC director of student development.
NBCC has partnered with the Child Welfare Political Action Committee. The not-for-profit organization has helped create more than 150 tuition-free opportunities at 13 schools in five provinces.
“Very few people who are raised in care have the opportunity to pursue post-secondary studies immediately after they age out because life is quite hard, so the critical thing is that there is no age restriction,” said Jane Kovarikova, the founder of the Child Welfare Political Action Committee.
Full- and part-time students are eligible, and bursary application support and career counselling are available.
“We’re encouraging every institution in the country to consider allocating a designated set of places that would be tuition-free for this type of student so that we can level the playing field going forward and have some access to social mobility,” said Kovarikova.
Eligible students can apply now and the bursary program at NBCC will start in September.