July 28, 2016
The Hon. Andrew Wilkinson
Minister of Advanced Education
PO Box 9080 Stn Prov Govt
Victoria, BC V8W 9E2
Dear Minister Wilkinson,
Youth in and from government care in this province need much more robust forms of support as they transition into adulthood. One of the ways your ministry can enhance their chances of a successful transition is to mandate and support all of BC’s public universities, colleges and institutes to waive tuition fees for them.
We appreciate the initiative of individual institutions in responding to the challenge from the Representative for Children and Youth to waive tuition fees for former youth in care without additional funding from the provincial government. However, the current situation is inequitable. To date only twelve institutions have adopted policies to waive tuition fees for youth in and from care. This leaves four universities and nine colleges still to come on board. Some of the institutions have restricted the number of students they will waive fees for in each year. Others have restricted the course options these students can apply the fee waiver to. Some programs are only pilots, with no long-term commitments yet. Most programs are limited to tuition fees, while a few cover other student fees.
This inequitable situation does not respect the right of these young people to be in control of their own post-secondary learning path if they need to have fees waived. For example, if a youth from care wants to pursue a program of studies in broadcasting at the BC Institute of Technology, they are not eligible for a fee waiver. This institution will only waive fees for five students from foster care per year and the list of eligible courses is limited to skilled trades courses.
Your ministry can help level the playing field in three ways. The first is by directing the colleges to grant tuition fee waivers to students formerly in care, pursuant to the Minister’s powers to issue directives and administrative management standards in ss. 2 and 3 of the College and Institute Act. The second is by writing to the boards of governors of the non-participating universities and strongly encouraging them to grant tuition fee waivers. The third is by making Ministry funding available to reimburse or partially reimburse institutions that have waived fees. We would be pleased to participate in any discussions you may wish to have with the relevant colleges and universities in this regard.
On our behalf, through this proposed change, the provincial government has the capacity to be a better ‘parent’ for youth who have come into our care. Beyond the moral imperative to do the right thing, investing in helping these young people to obtain a much-needed post-secondary education can only pay benefits in the future for their growth and development, for the children they may raise or are already raising, for the communities they live in, and for our society generally.
Thank you for your consideration of this proposal and we look forward to your reply.
First Call coalition members
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, Representative for Children and Youth
Kathy Corrigan, Advanced Education Critic
Vancouver Foundation, Fostering Change Initiative