B.C. NDP Announce Tuition-Free Post-Secondary Education for Youth in Care

Young adults aging out of the foster care system will now be able to go to university free of charge
Joseph Keller, Staff Writer

Left to right: B.C. cabinet members Katrine Conroy, Melanie Mark, and Premier John Horgan. The B.C. NDP announced that post-secondary tuition will be waived for people who age out of foster care. (flickr/Province of British Columbia)

The provincial government has announced a tuition waiver program that will give free post-secondary education to young adults aging out of the foster care system. Students aged 19 to 26 who were in foster care for at least two years are eligible for the waiver.

The province’s decision is being praised by educators and students for the opportunity it will provide to disadvantaged young adults as they transition to living independently.

“It’s a good piece of news for students in B.C.” says George Davison, President of the Federation of Post Secondary Educators of B.C. “It’s the right thing to do and so I congratulate [the provincial government] on the decision.”

Davison says that the FPSE has been pushing for this decision from the government for some time, along with other measures to remove barriers to post-secondary education for students from all walks of life.

“I don’t know of any 19 year-olds whose parents say, ‘Okay, you’ve turned 19. Now go off and find your own housing and pay for your own education and make your way in the world,’ and for kids who come from shattered family backgrounds, who have been in foster care for years, this is an unconscionable thing to do,” says Davison. “Eliminating some of the barriers to accessing post-secondary education is a good thing.”

Feven Kidane knows first-hand how challenging it can be to age out of foster care. Kidane was in the system for three years after signing herself into foster care at age 16 to escape an abusive situation at home. She was thrilled when she heard about the province’s announcement because she knows that it will help young adults who have been in her situation thrive.

“I find it really liberating because it’s really hard for people with no support who have been in the foster care system,” says Kidane. “The government is your parents and once you age out they don’t have anything to do with you and you’re on your own. So knowing that there’s more resources for you when you age out of the system is really great.”

Upon aging out of the foster care system, she took out a student loan to attend a one-year program at Summit Pacific College. The program cost about $13,000 and left Kidane unsatisfied. She says that if the province had of been offering free tuition for former foster children at that time, she would have been far more likely to enroll in a university degree program.

“I wasn’t really educated on what post-secondary was supposed to look like,” she says. “I didn’t really have anybody telling me, like, ‘Maybe we should look at this instead,’ or, ‘Let’s make a plan.’”

This provincial decision has given young adults like Kidane a whole new range of options for education. As a lifelong musician, Kidane in particular has received a chance to follow one of her dreams: completing the Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies degree at Capilano University.

At 20 years old, she still has plenty of time to complete the four-year program while she can claim the benefit.

“I know I have six years, but I would just love to do it all now,” she says. “I’m so restless because I’ve been worrying about how I’m going to pay back that student loan and worried about taking more debt on, but now that I have this foot in the door I have to go back as soon as I can.”

Universities around the province have offered tuition waivers to various students coming out of foster care for some time. KPU Provost and Vice-President Academic Salvador Ferreras says that the university is looking forward to being able to waive tuition for significantly more students coming out of foster care than it was able to accommodate in the past.

“We’re extremely pleased that the province is expanding their tuition program,” says Ferreras. “KPU has been waiving tuition and providing wrap around services for young adults aging out of foster care for the past three years in a controlled intake of five students per year. With the province’s support, we are now able to significantly increase those numbers.”

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