More than 1,100 former youth in care are using the program since it launched in 2017
Alisha Samnani // Contributor
The Provincial Tuition Waiver Program forgoes post-secondary tuition fees for former youths in care. Those eligible must be between the ages of 19 and 27 and have been in care for a combination of at least 24 months. The waiver includes any deposits required to secure admission to a particular institution, program or class. Many of those in care come from marginalized or unstable backgrounds and this program aims to help these students to “thrive, and not just survive”.
In September 2017, BC Premier John Horgan implemented the program that granted free tuition to all 25 accredited post-secondary institutions in British Columbia. Prior to this implementation, only 11 post-secondary institutions participated and they set their own criteria regarding eligibility for youth in care.
The July 2018 program expansion now covers students that are attending either full-time or part-time studies at an accredited BC post-secondary institution, Native College or an eligible union trade training center.
Stephanie Thompson is the Communications Coordinator at the Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks—a youth-driven, provincial, non-profit organization dedicated to BC youth in care. She is pleased with the path the Provincial Tuition Waiver Program has taken thus far. “With the Provincial Tuition Waiver Program, the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training has taken down a huge barrier for many former youth in care,” said Thompson. “Many young people rely on parents to pay their tuition, and for many youths in care, the government is their parent. With the enormous cost of tuition removed, 1,119 former youth in care in BC have been able to begin the journey of following their dreams and building the lives they want.”
According to the BC Government, there is approximately 2,200 former youth in care aged 19-26 in the public post-secondary system and 35 of the students covered by the Provincial Tuition Waiver Program attend Capilano University. The Student Affairs department at Capilano University is creating their own pilot program for students with experience in the care system.
This program looks to provide these students with peer helpers who can provide informal assistance with social activities, well-being and personal support, as well as academic and life skills preparation. Application to the program has no age restrictions or criteria for time spent in care, and students can also apply if they grew up in a care system outside of BC.
Currently, the Tuition Fee Waiver for Former Youth in Care program only covers students pursuing their undergraduate degrees and excludes students pursuing a Masters, Ph.D. or any Adult Basic Education programming. The Government of BC should look to Florida when it comes to ideas for expansion. Florida’s former youth in care have until the age of 28 and covers students obtaining both undergraduate and graduate degrees. This is becoming increasingly important as jobs start to require more advanced degrees.
There are additional grants and programs in place for youth in the British Columbia care system, including the Youth Futures Education Fund, the Youth Education Assistance Fund, and the Agreements with Young Adults program. The Youth Futures Education Fund provides assistance with additional expenses such as textbooks, rent, bills and childcare. The Agreements with Young Adults program covers youth that were still in care on their 19th birthday and are in pursuit of their GED, undergraduate degree, or completing a Life Skills program.
The Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks created their own Dream Fund Bursary program back in the early 2000s when they saw a need for financial support in attending post-secondary. “As part of the Dream Fund, we award funds through our Education Achievement Bursary for tuition for former youth in care who are attending accredited post-secondary institutions.”
A comprehensive list of educational resources for former youth in care, including tuition waiver programs, scholarships, and bursaries, are available on agedout.com.