Adult students taking high school courses and English as a Second Language programming at Maple Ridge’s Riverside Centre may soon have to pay for their education.
The Education Ministry announced last week that it will no longer fund some students for adult upgrading courses, including ESL programs.
As of Jan. 1, 2015, post-secondary institutions will charge tuition fees for all adult upgrading courses and ESL,
Beginning May 1, 2015, the Ministry of Education will no longer provide funding to school districts for tuition-free upgrading courses for adults who already hold a high school diploma.
High school courses will remain tuition-free for anyone working toward and adult dogwood diploma, and for adults looking to take basic, introductory courses.
The government says it is protecting low-income learners, and that up-front, non-repayable grants will be available for low-income students attending adult upgrading courses, including ESL, at public post-secondary institutions.
The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows school board could not quantify the local effects yet.
Secretary-treasurer Flavia Coughlan said she is assessing the data now to gauge the impact. To date, the board has had no formal communications from the education ministry.
The board takes in a total of $150,000 in funding for adult education, with corresponding expenses.
Asked if it was bad news, Coughlan allowed that it was “Unexpected news.”
Others were less diplomatic.
“Today’s announcement is a total reversal of the government’s position on tuition fees that no one wants,” said Zach Crispin, chair of the Canadian Federation of Students.
The move comes after tuition fees for ABE (adult basic education) were eliminated by the B.C. Liberals in 2007. It was an outcome of the B.C. government’s Campus 2020 Report, and followed months of research and consultation, said a press release from the group.
“In 2007, this same government concluded that all citizens should have access to tuition fee-free basic education”, said Crispin. “Today, that decision was reversed, without warning, consultation, justification or reason.”
The cost of maintaining the tuition-fee status of ESL programs is estimated at less than $20 million across the entire province, he said.
“B.C. has a budget surplus in excess of $400 million. There is simply no justification for cutting funding to basic education and asking students and families to pay more.”