Tuition Waiver Program

Though the program continues to benefit former youth-in-care greater supports are needed to ensure student success

Since the announcement in 2017 that tuition for former youth in care would be waived at all 25 public post-secondary institutions of BC, many youth have become a part of our college and university communities. This was part of a government strategy to address inequality faced by youth in care through a more comprehensive program, building on an existing system that had been in place since 2008.

During the fall 2017 term, 229 students across the province received the funding. In early 2018, it was announced that beyond funding for the institutional fees, youth in the program would also receive assistance for rent, child and health care. 

For young people in foster care, the accomplishment of graduating from high school is only the beginning. Faced with an uncertain future without a solid family foundation, many former youth in care struggle once they are no longer in the provincial government system. Without this funding many former youth in care would not be able to access a post-secondary education, but it is not only funding that is needed.  

Selkirk College’s Healthy Campus Advisor Leslie Comrie states although the College is “able to provide good supports to these students, a comprehensive bridging program from secondary to post secondary would be so helpful as the expectations and culture of high school and college is quite different.” 

Rose Rollier-Spencer, a former youth-in-care and Selkirk student, explains this further, stating that “Selkirk College has helped me develop the skills of communication and confidence, but it’s still hard to communicate because I think that people are looking at me like I’m an idiot,” she says. “Selkirk College has made me realize my limits. I can push myself to a certain point, but I can’t push past that point. If I push myself past that point, I am useless to the college and myself.”

The five former youth-in-care that will be attending Selkirk during the coming January 2019 term will be supported by the Healthy Campus Advisor as well as the Financial Aid administrator and counselling staff.  

Comrie explains that “support occurs on many levels, from guidance through the complexities of applying to a program or course of studies, help with filling out applications and one on one counseling through difficult times. The Healthy Campus Advisor liaises with foster parents and MCFD staff to smooth the way to independence.” She goes on to state how a peer-to-peer mentoring program would greatly complement those supports offered by the institution.

Access to education is a key indicator of success for not just individuals, but also their communities.

Comrie articulates this, saying that “helping former youth in care successfully navigate post secondary education supports not only the student but also the communities in which they live. An educated and employed work force helps our province thrive.” 

With the government recognizing the benefits for addressing inequalities through education for former youth in care and calls from student groups and post-secondary institutions across the province, the upcoming BC Budget 2019 will hopefully address affordability for all students in BC facing increasing tuition fees and student debt.