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Tuition waiver available for 1,119 former youth in care

Melanie Mark
Melanie Mark

More than 1,100 former youth in care are eligible for post-secondary education through the province’s tuition waiver program.

“The tuition waiver program is a game-changing investment for former youth in care who are writing a new chapter in their lives and walking through the doors of post-secondary education in B.C.,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, in a news release. “This program is providing young people who haven’t had the right supports to now have a fighting chance at success. The fact that 1,119 students are benefiting from this opportunity speaks volumes about the resilience and determination of these young people. I am so proud to be part of a government that recognizes young people are our greatest asset, and lifting them up is the best legacy we can leave behind.”

Since it was introduced in the fall of 2017, 1,119 individual students have accessed the Provincial Tuition Waiver Program, available at 25 public post-secondary institutions, Native Education College and 10 union training providers.

That is a 443 per cent increase in the number of students since its introduction in 2017 when 206 students accessed the waiver.

Former youth in care accessing the waiver are enrolled in a range of programs, including social work, teaching, nursing, flight training, trades, business administration and graphic design.

“The Provincial Tuition Waiver Program is a unique and important opportunity for youth in and from government care in B.C.,” said Natasha Santerre, a student in Douglas College’s Youth Justice program. “Like many youth in and from care, I found myself having to navigate multiple barriers as I worked to set goals related to my future. The Tuition Waiver Program allows youth to access post-secondary education and trades without the added burden of figuring out how to cover the costs associated with their education goals. The removal of not having to stress about how to fund my education has created space for me to dream and create a future for myself that isn’t defined by being a ‘foster kid.’ “

While many institutions worked with former youth in care on an informal basis, only 11 of the 25 public post-secondary institutions had programs prior to 2017. In 2016-17, 189 students accessed waivers through those programs.

The 2018 B.C. Labour Market Outlook forecasted approximately 900,000 job openings through 2028. Three-quarters of those jobs will require some level of post-secondary education or skills training.

* As of Sept. 30, 2019, 6,724 children and youth are in the care of the province or on youth agreements, where Indigenous youth are overrepresented.

* Every year, 750 to 1,000 youth age out of care, often turning to income assistance or the Agreements with Young Adults (AYA) program.

* An estimated 2,200 former youth in care aged 19 to 26 are in the public post-secondary system.

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