Students’ Union wants funding reinstated for ABE programs

Provincial government eliminated ABE tuition fees in 2007

  • Apr. 27, 2016 8:00 p.m.

Scott Stanfield

Record staff

The North Island Students’ Union would like to see government funding reinstated for Adult Basic Education (ABE) programs.

Adult Basic Education helps students most in need qualify for higher education and employment. More than half of ABE students are women. About 20 per cent are parents.

The union says the programs had been tuition-free in B.C. since the Liberal government of Gordon Campbell eliminated ABE tuition fees in 2007. But seven years later, government announced a $6.9 million cut to ABE programming, and removed the tuition-free ABE mandate.

“We’re not convinced that it’s going to cost them any less,” said Jessica Sandy, the union’s executive director. “It’s not even that it’s a cost savings, it seems to be just a principal thing they’ve come up with.”

Last fall, she said North Island College had about a 20 per cent drop in ABE enrolment, which represents an approximate four per cent overall drop in the school.

About 30 to 40 per cent of students come through adult upgrading before coming to NIC, she added.

Before funding was cut last fall, Alanna Mitchell was working full-time and upgrading courses in the evening because her high school English and math were not accepted as prerequisites for her college program of choice. When she started upgrading English, she paid a $15 assessment fee to determine her level, and a $25 application fee to start upgrading.

After the funding cut, Mitchell paid $213.30 (not including workbooks) for a two-credit math course. Unaware of the Adult Upgrading Grant, she paid the entire amount out of pocket.

“It was really hard,” said Mitchell, who later qualified for a grant that covered tuition and books for math. “I don’t think I would be able to continue taking courses if it were not for the grant, especially because my work contract just ended.”

Last year, NIC was among 18 colleges in B.C. to receive funds ($6.9 million in one-time funding) to continue to provide ABE.

But Sandy said many schools used that money to hire someone to assist with grant applications.

“Why are we trying to make this more difficult?” Sandy said. “It’s people trying to retrain themselves, and we should be encouraging that.”

Government concurs that adult upgrading programs are important but says schools are finding it increasingly difficult to deliver courses free of charge.

“The decision to allow institutions to charge tuition for adult upgrading programs was necessary to ensure sustainability of these important programs, while upfront, non-repayable grants are available for low-income students,” Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson said in a statement. “Adult upgrading grants cover the cost of tuition, textbooks, supplies, transportation and childcare. Grants for half the cost of tuition are available for students with an income of up to 10 per cent above the income threshold.”

The union says government’s definition of ‘low-income’ will shut out thousands of students because the Adult Upgrading Grant is only available to those making $23,647 or less.

But Wilkinson notes the income threshold for free tuition and other expenses for a single person is $23,647 while the threshold for a student with two dependents is $36,192.

More than 4,500 students accessed upgrading grants in 2015-16 compared to 4,244 students the previous year, Wilkinson added.

In 2015-16, he said government spent $7.6 million more on funding Adult Upgrading Grants “because our government is committed to ensuring that public post-secondary education remains affordable for students, taxpayers and government.”


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A donated towel warms a merlin chick. Photo supplied
MARS Moment: 2021 shaping up to be a record-setting year for animal rescues

Submitted by Jane Sproull Thomson Special to Black Press With the pandemic,… Continue reading

File photo of Gord Johns during World Oceans Day.
Courtenay-Alberni MP outlines priorities for federal budget

Universal pharmacare, affordable housing and Pacific wild salmon are some of the… Continue reading

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations in Gold River area

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

Volunteers sort through bottles and cans during Saturday's fundraiser for hospice. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Comox Valley hospice holds drive-through bottle drive

Bike team is fundraising for the annual Cycle of Life tour on Vancouver Island

The Village of Cumberland is applying for a UBCM grant to help streamline development application processes. Black Press file photo
Cumberland looks to streamline development

“This looks like the best thing we’ve ever applied for.”

People take part in an anti-curfew protest in Montreal on Sunday April 11, 2021. Hundreds of people gathered in Old Montreal tonight in defiance of a new 8 p.m. curfew. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giuseppe Valiante
VIDEO: Hundreds defy Montreal’s 8 p.m. curfew in violent, destructive protest

Quebec reported 1,535 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, as well as five additional deaths linked to the virus

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to register people ages 40+ for COVID-19 vaccines in April

Appointments are currently being booked for people ages 66 and up

A volunteer disinfects a historical Mohabat Khan mosque ahead of the upcoming Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Friday, April 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad)
For Canadian Muslims, second pandemic Ramadan is a time of hope and sadness

Many members of the association are trying to find ways ‘to help people stay connected to one another’

South Surrey farmland, March 2020. The province’s crackdown on secondary residences sparked protests that have the NDP government engaged in a lengthy rewrite of its legislation. (Tracy Holmes/Peace Arch News)
B.C. NDP now wants to keep even ‘non-farmers’ on the land

‘Grandfathering’ of second residences extended again

Photos of Vancouver Canucks players are pictured outside the closed box office of Rogers Arena in downtown Vancouver Thursday, April 8, 2021. The Vancouver Canucks say 25 players and coaches have tested positive during a COVID-19 outbreak that involves a variant of the virus. It is now the biggest reported outbreak in the NHL this season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canucks’ return to practice pushed back as player added to COVID protocol list

COVID outbreak has led to eight games being cancelled

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

Most Read