KPU staff rally to keep continuous intake courses accessible

Proposed changes would have students paying more for Adult Basic Education.

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Proposed changes to KPU’s pricing model for various continuous intake programs could soon have students paying significantly more for Academic and Career preparation courses, domestic ESL classes and Adult Basic Education, unless instructors can change the minds of university brass.

Up to this point, these classes have been tuition-free. However, it was recently announced by the university that full tuition fees are to be charged for these courses along with the announcement of 40 per cent section cuts to the ACP department’s funding. In response, instructors of these courses are calling for a reversal of this decision, sighting decreased access to these courses for low income students.

Courses affected by the decision include adult upgrading courses and ESL courses for domestic learners. Often, these courses are used as stepping stones to meet entrance requirements for KPU degree programs, gain grade 12 equivalency and to increase employability. The affected courses cover a range of academic areas including English and mathematics.

“We’ve got a bunch of people out there that don’t have the literacy levels that they need to be successful in our society,” says Geoff Dean, ACP co-chair.

In response to the change, Kwantlen’s ACP faculty members held a meeting on March 13 to consider their options and express their concerns and in many cases outrage over the decision. The meeting, which was lead by Geoff Dean, resulted in a plan-of-action that includes a letter writing campaign to government and KPU officials, establishing a presence on social media and reaching out to media sources.

The group hopes to have a more public meeting in the near future which will include aboriginal and poverty groups as well as the general public. The hope is to engage the public and advocate for the necessity of these programs in their current accessible form.

“Let’s keep [continuous intake] tuition free because it’s that ease of access gets people into this institution,” says Dean.

This change in KPU’s policy reflects recent changes to B.C.’s University Act by the provincial government. Currently the University Act requires that KPU offer these Adult Basic Education and ESL courses to students. This requirement was put in place in 2008 along with funding provided by the province and a requirement that these classes be tuition free. However, the province announced late last year that as of May 1 it will no longer require that these courses be tuition free and it will no longer be providing funding, essentially passing the cost of these courses to the student. In place of provincial funding the province will offer support for low income upgrading students in the form of Adult Upgrading Acts.

In a letter handed out to attendees at the meeting, KPU’s ACP instructors argue that eligibility for these Adult Upgrading Grants is far too restrictive and that many low income students will still be left without access to these courses. They also argue that tuition-free continuous intake programs can be kept financially sustainable using income generated by ACP’s fixed intake courses. They believe that these course offerings are an important tool to improving literacy rate and employability in this province and therefore, despite the change in the provincial government’s policies, KPU still has an obligation to keep these courses tuition free and accessible for all.

“The payoff is that for every dollar you invest in someone’s education, that individual doing it is going to pay back two or three or four dollars to society within the next couple of years,” says Dean. “It should be viewed as an investment that will set our society up for better things down the road”

When asked to comment on the changes, KPU’s vice-provost Salvador Ferreras was quick to assure that KPU is making these decisions with accessibility in mind saying, “We are working on creative solutions that will ensure the broadest access possible.”

Ferreras says details on the changes are still being worked out. Time will tell exactly what the changes will look like and how they will affect accessibility.

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