BC government announces over 1,000 students have benefited from tuition waiver program

The BC government has announced that 1,119 former youth in care are now utilizing the Provincial Tuition Waiver Program for post-secondary education.

Under the tuition waiver program, eligible students can receive tuition-free post-secondary education at 25 public post-secondary institutions, the Native Education College and ten union trades training centres. The program was introduced in fall 2017, a year when only 206 students in the province accessed the waiver.

The BC government recently reported that number has now increased by 443 per cent.

“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 BC,” said Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training, Melanie Mark. in a press release.

According to Chris Rambaran, a UBC enrolment services advisor who specializes in assisting former youth in care, there are currently 54 UBC students who are former youth in care, 35 of whom are utilizing the Provincial Tuition Waiver Program.

The number of former youth in care at UBC has risen significantly in recent years.

In 2014, prior to the introduction of the Provincial Tuition Waiver, there were only 17 of these students. Following the introduction of the program in 2017, the number of former youth in care students at UBC almost doubled.

Students who are ineligible for the Provincial Tuition Waiver Program may still have their undergraduate degree costs covered by the UBC Post Care Tuition Waiver, which has slightly different criteria, including less time spent in care needed to qualify. Both the UBC and Provincial Tuition Waiver Programs cover tuition and all student fees.

Rambaran says that in recent years “the scales have tipped” and more students are using the Provincial Tuition Waiver Program. But according to him, “overall, more [UBC] students have benefitted from the [UBC program].”

The university has taken steps within the last year to make post-secondary education more accessible towards applicants by removing a time restriction that required these students to start their post-secondary education by age 24 and their UBC undergraduate degree by age 29.

According to Rambaran, UBC offers additional support systems in the form of priority for student housing, designated academic and enrolment advisors as well as support with accessing and applying to external funds and bursaries.

“[These initiatives are] meant to alleviate the burden and the financial strain and all of the competing demands of post-secondary [education],” he said. “So that [former youth in care] can just prioritize their health and their education.”

To help students cover additional expenses such as food and rent, the BC government also recently launched the Youth Futures Fund in partnership with Vancouver Foundation.

But, Rambaran additionally mentioned that aside from financial problems, former youth in care face challenges such as lacking the support network of a family.

According to the provincial government, as of September 30, 2019, there are 6,724 children and youth in care or on youth agreements in BC, with 750 to 1,000 aging out each year.