Province to stop paying for adult ESL and academic upgrading courses

posted on December 8, 2014

By Tracy Sherlock, Vancouver Sun | Link to Article

VANCOUVER — English language and academic upgrading courses will no longer be free for adults in B.C.

By Tracy Sherlock, Vancouver Sun | Link to Article

VANCOUVER — English language and academic upgrading courses will no longer be free for adults in B.C.

The province announced late last week that as of May 1, it will no longer provide funding to school districts for the upgrading courses for adults who already hold a diploma. Instead, low-income students will be able to apply for grants to cover their education expenses and the schools offering these courses will be able to charge tuition, the ministries of advanced education and education said. But the tuition fees are capped at approximately $320 per course or $1,600 for a full-time semester, an amount that may not be enough to cover costs.

All courses leading toward high school graduation have been free in B.C. since 2008. Now, those courses will be free only for people who have not yet earned a B.C. Dogwood diploma. Anyone who has already graduated in B.C. will have to pay tuition for these same courses, which could be a course like Biology 12, for example, that is needed to apply for some post-secondary programs.

“A fundamental principle here with any of the changes we are making is that any person who has not graduated from high school in the province of British Columbia will have free access to a graduation certificate in the K-to-12 system. The difference is, in the post-secondary system, if people choose to go to post-secondary to complete their programs or to get upgrading, they will be charged a tuition for that graduation and for any upgrading of the programs that they might want,” Education Minister Peter Fassbender said while making the announcement.

English as a Second Language courses for adults have been free since 2012 in B.C. Before that, schools charged tuition for ESL instruction, but two years ago the federal government said schools could no longer do that.

ESL funding to colleges was cut recently after a change in the funding from the federal government that was channelled through the provincial government.

That has left Vancouver Community College, the largest provider of ESL training in Western Canada, in the position of giving 70 of its ESL teachers layoff notices and beginning the process of shutting down most of its program, which enrols about 3,000 students each term. The ESL program was slated to be suspended in mid-December.

While VCC’s president Peter Nunoda welcomed the announcement and said it would allow the college to keep some of its staff and offer some ESL programs in January, the president of the school’s faculty association, Karen Shortt, said her association is “reeling” from the announcement and that the maximum tuition will not cover the costs to run the program.

“They’re squeezing the college to offer (these programs). But it doesn’t do any good because if the college does offer (these programs, the extra cost) has to come out of their already very minimal base grant that is reduced every year, and the college is continually forced to find efficiencies,” Shortt said. “VCC is already to the bare bones. We have no more money.”

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