Adult basic education now free in BC

Adult basic education now free in BC

The new government also plans to reduce the interest on student loans

New B.C. premier John Horgan made one of his first major announcements last week, stating his government will eliminate tuition fees on adult basic education (ABE) and English language learning (ELL) programs.

Speaking from Camosun College in Victoria, Horgan believes this will open the door for tens of thousands of people looking to upgrade their education and skill levels.

“We’re committed to making it easier for British Columbians to get ahead,” said Horgan. “By eliminating these fees, we’re tearing down the roadblocks to the basic education and skills people need to improve their lives.”

The College of New Caledonia (CNC), which offers an ABE program in Burns Lake, says this was a step in the right direction.

“We’re thrilled to be able to offer ABE and ELL [in Prince George] programs tuition-free starting Sept. 1, 2017,” said Jay Notay, CNC’s executive vice president of academic, applied research and students. “We’re aware that about three quarters of CNC students go on to complete another program at the college after completing ABE courses, and this doesn’t account for those programs they enrol in at other institutions, so we’re pleased to be able to support their learning and success.”

This decision reverses action taken by the B.C. Liberals in 2015 that imposed tuition fees up to $1600 per semester of full-time studies for adult learners, which saw enrolment in these programs drop by almost 35 per cent – including in Burns Lake – between the 2013/14 and 2016/17 school years.

Chad Thompson, CNC’s School of University Studies and Career Access dean, said CNC is prepared to accommodate any increase in applicants as a result of this announcement.

“And for those who have registered and already paid the tuition, the college will refund those eligible,” he added.

As for how much the elimination of tuition will end up costing the province, those figures will come out in the budget update next month. The B.C. NDP also say they will reduce the interest on student loans.

“We’re actually going to reduce the cost of borrowing for student loans to zero, interest free, as well as a completion grant for those who have finished their education,” said Horgan.

“We want to give incentives to people that have built up a large student debt over the course of their studies. We want to ensure they’re motivated to complete so we can knock $1000 off the total cost of borrowing over their education period, and that will also be outlined in the September budget.”

– With files from Ragnar Haagen