More than 1,100 former youth in care are now building themselves a better future with post-secondary education through the Province’s tuition waiver program.
“The tuition waiver program is a game-changing investment for former youth in care who are writing a new chapter in their lives and walking through the doors of post-secondary education in B.C.,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. “This program is providing young people who haven’t had the right supports to now have a fighting chance at success. The fact that 1,119 students are benefiting from this opportunity speaks volumes about the resilience and determination of these young people. I am so proud to be part of a government that recognizes young people are our greatest asset, and lifting them up is the best legacy we can leave behind.”
Mark celebrated the milestone with youth in care, former youth in care, supporters and advocates at a Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks event outside of Mission.
Since it was introduced in the fall of 2017, 1,119 individual students have accessed the Provincial Tuition Waiver Program, available at 25 public post-secondary institutions, Native Education College and 10 union training providers.
That is a 443% increase in the number of students since its introduction in 2017 when 206 students accessed the waiver.
“We’re changing the way we support youth as they transition out of government care and into adulthood,” said Katrine Conroy, Minister of Children and Family Development. “We have expanded and enhanced the Agreements with Young Adults program, which complements the tuition waiver program, by providing an extra $250 per month for the full 12 months of the year, and have also extended eligibility by one year.”
Former youth in care accessing the waiver are enrolled in a range of programs, including social work, teaching, nursing, flight training, trades, business administration and graphic design.
“The Provincial Tuition Waiver Program is a unique and important opportunity for youth in and from government care in B.C.,” said Natasha Santerre, a student in Douglas College’s Youth Justice program. “Like many youth in and from care, I found myself having to navigate multiple barriers as I worked to set goals related to my future. The Tuition Waiver Program allows youth to access post-secondary education and trades without the added burden of figuring out how to cover the costs associated with their education goals. The removal of not having to stress about how to fund my education has created space for me to dream and create a future for myself that isn’t defined by being a ‘foster kid.’ ”
While many institutions worked with former youth in care on an informal basis, only 11 of the 25 public post-secondary institutions had programs prior to 2017. In 2016-17, 189 students accessed waivers through those programs.
The 2018 B.C. Labour Market Outlook forecasted approximately 900,000 job openings through 2028. Three-quarters of those jobs will require some level of post-secondary education or skills training.
Bob D’Eith, MLA for Maple Ridge-Mission –
“I’m pleased that the celebration of the 1,000th former youth in care to access the Provincial Tuition Waiver Program took place in Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows, because I know the people in these communities – like those everywhere in B.C. – want to put people first, including young people who deserve an equal chance to take advantage of the opportunities in a strong B.C. economy.”
Lisa Beare, MLA for Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows –
“Post-secondary education can be an important tool for former youth in care to build the foundation of a successful career and a healthy and happy life as part of an inclusive and thriving British Columbia economy. I’m proud our government has acted to take the important step of increasing options and opportunities so everyone can have a secure future.”
Lorena Bishop, executive director, Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks –
“Our organization was formed by youth in care and former youth in care who understood the importance that support, connections and a sense of family play in their lives. The Provincial Tuition Waiver Program is so vital because post-secondary education and training supports young people who’ve been in care to improve their lives and reach their full potential.”
- As of Sept. 30, 2019, 6,724 children and youth are in the care of the Province or on youth agreements, where Indigenous youth are overrepresented.
- Every year, 750 to 1,000 youth age out of care, often turning to income assistance or the Agreements with Young Adults (AYA) program.
- An estimated 2,200 former youth in care aged 19 to 26 are in the public post-secondary system.
- Budget 2018 committed $2 million a year to the Provincial Tuition Waiver Program.
- Budget 2018 also committed $30 million over three years to improve the AYA program. The AYA program provides eligible former youth in care with funding for monthly living expenses while they finish high school or attend post-secondary, vocational training, life skills and/or rehabilitation programs up to their 27th birthday.
- The Province of B.C. has contributed $500,000 to the youth futures fund for additional wraparound supports.
Provincial Tuition Waiver Program: https://studentaidbc.ca/explore/grants-scholarships/provincial-tuition-waiver-program
Youth Future Education Fund: https://youthfutures.ca/
Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks: https://fbcyicn.ca/
A backgrounder follows.