Adult upgrading courses, including English as a Second Language (ESL) programs, are an important bridge to post-secondary education, training or employment.
To ensure adult upgrading courses remain sustainable, policy changes allowed public post-secondary institutions in British Columbia to introduce tuition for adult upgrading courses, beginning Jan. 1, 2015, while providing upfront grants to eligible low-income students.
The Ministry of Advanced Education continues to subsidize the delivery of adult upgrading through annual base operating grants for public post-secondary institutions.
High-school courses in school districts remain free for students who have not graduated from high school and who are working toward a British Columbia Adult Graduation Diploma.
Upfront, non-repayable Adult Upgrading Grants are available to eligible low-income post-secondary students to cover the cost of tuition, textbooks, supplies, student fees, transportation and unsubsidized childcare. Grants for half the cost of tuition are available for students with an income of 10% above the threshold.
The income threshold for grants to cover all tuition and other expenses for a single person is $24,144 while the income threshold for a student with two dependents is $36,955.
Government provided one-time funding of $6.9 million in 2015-16 to help institutions transition to the new delivery model. The funding gave post-secondary institutions the opportunity to plan for the changes needed to move to a tuition-based model.
Facts about the Adult Upgrading Grant:
- Upfront, non-repayable grants are available for low-income students attending adult upgrading courses, including Adult Basic Education, ESL and Adult Special Education, at public post-secondary institutions.
- Students who can show they need financial support may receive a grant to pay for tuition, textbooks, supplies, transportation and unsubsidized childcare. Funding applications are available online at StudentAid BC or through public post-secondary institutions. Applications are made directly to the institution.
- The annual budget for these grants increased by 33% to $7.6 million on April 1, 2015. The grants cover the costs of tuition, textbooks, supplies, transportation and unsubsidized childcare.
- Students above the income threshold were previously ineligible for the grant. A more flexible approach means students who are 10% above the income threshold are now eligible for a grant to cover half their tuition costs.
- These changes are intended to support increased demand for financial assistance from low-income students taking upgrading or ESL.
- More students are taking advantage of the Adult Upgrading Grant availability: the number of students who accessed the grant increased 69% to 7,192 students in 2015-16 compared to 4,244 students in 2014-15.
- In 2014-15, total adult upgrading grant expenditures were $2.7 million. In 2015-16, the Ministry allocated a total of $10.3 million.
Facts about adult upgrading:
- Adult upgrading in post-secondary education focuses on literacy, basic education, academic upgrading, and employment preparation. Courses can include computer studies, education and career planning, English, science, mathematics and social sciences.
- Adult upgrading had been tuition-free since 2008, when the Ministry of Advanced Education added $6.9 million in base funding to the public post-secondary system to partially compensate institutions for lost adult-upgrading tuition revenues.
- Delivery costs increased since 2008, and institutions said they found it more difficult each year to maintain their adult upgrading courses on a tuition-free basis.
- Institutions were able to start charging tuition as of Jan. 1, 2015; implementation is at the discretion of each institution.
- The total number of adults accessing adult upgrading by academic year decreased 24% from 29,375 in 2009-10 to 22,290 in 2014-15.
- Tuition fees for adult upgrading were initially set in 2015 and 2016 by each institution up to a maximum amount of $1,600 per semester of full-time studies, or approximately $320 for a course that runs between three to five hours a week.
Facts about English as a Second Language:
- The federal government, through Citizenship and Immigration Canada (now Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada), provided funding for ESL programs and tuition at public post-secondary institutions until April 1, 2014.
- ESL had been tuition-free since April 1, 2012. The tuition-free policy for B.C. was possible because $5.4 million from the Canada-BC Immigration Agreement supported the tuition for about 80% of the ESL students in the post-secondary system. A further $17.2 million from the agreement provided base funding for ESL programs.
- ESL courses are accessed by immigrants who need to increase their English language skills for academic upgrading or to find jobs in the trades or professions they were trained for, before they decided to make B.C. their permanent home.
- The federal government continues to fund tuition-free ESL for eligible immigrants through not-for-profit agencies and some post-secondary institutions throughout B.C.
Eighteen public post-secondary institutions deliver adult upgrading courses in British Columbia. All except the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology also provide ESL courses. The institutions are:
- British Columbia Institute of Technology
- Camosun College
- Capilano University
- College of New Caledonia
- College of the Rockies
- Douglas College
- Kwantlen Polytechnic University
- Langara College
- Nicola Valley Institute of Technology
- North Island College
- Northern Lights College
- Northwest Community College
- Okanagan College
- Selkirk College
- Thompson Rivers University
- University of the Fraser Valley
- Vancouver Community College
- Vancouver Island University
Income threshold amounts for Adult Upgrading Grant eligibility increased by approximately 2% effective September 2016. The table below shows the maximum gross family income limits for Adult Upgrading Grant eligibility:
Family Size | Grant Threshold | Income at 10% over threshold
One | $24,144 | $26,558
Two | $30,059 | $33,065
Three | $36,955 | $40,651
Four | $44,866 | $49,353
Five | $50,887 | $55,976
Six | $57,392 | $63,131
Seven or more | $63,898 | $70,288
The Adult Upgrading Grant income limits align with the income thresholds for provincial and national student loan programs for low-income students.
Rodney PorterMinistry of Advanced Education