(Pixabay photo)

B.C.’s tuition waiver program for former youth in care continues to grow

More than 1,100 former youth in government care are now using the program since it launched in 2017

The tuition waiver program in B.C. has reached one if its first major milestones, with more than 1,000 former youth in care using the funds to pursue post-secondary education.

Since the program was launched province-wide in 2017, 1,119 students have been approved to have their tuition waived across 25 public university, colleges and trades schools. Last year, the province increased the age cap from 25 to 27.

Advanced Education Minister Melanie Mark celebrated the growing program with 30 youth in care and former foster kids during a Federation of BC Youth in Care Networks event in Mission Saturday.

She spoke of how youth who have aged out of care face greater challenges and more barriers after high school graduation than those who aren’t placed into the child welfare system.

“You could be number 1,120,” she said to the group. “You can be the first person in your family to go to university.”

Roughly 750 to 1,000 youth age out of care each year, according to B.C. government statistics. Roughly 55 per cent of youth who have been placed in government care graduate high school, compared to the roughly 84 per cent provincial average. An estimated 2,200 former youth in care under the age of 26 are attending post-secondary schooling.

Caitlyn Mainer, 20, is one of those two-thousand young people working to earn a bachelor’s degree, at Douglas College in the psychology program. In her third year, she told Black Press Media that she’s been accessing both the tuition waiver program and the Agreement with Young Adults program since graduating from an alternative school in Maple Ridge.

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 or rehabilitation programs, up to their 27th birthday.

ALSO READ: B.C.-wide tuition waiver gives former foster kids a chance at post-secondary education

Mainer said wants to see more young people using the tuition waiver program, but in order to do that the program’s eligibility requirements need to be more inclusive and also offer added supports.

“I think when you look at the amount of people who are using AYA and the tuition waiver, it’s the most successful and the people who got the best grades – it’s not really diverse in who it can accept and it has really strict guidelines,”she said.

“I think another thing that would be beneficial is getting mental health support – at least at my school they don’t offer any counselling that isn’t academic, so it can be a struggle. There’s a lot of stress that is associated with school.

“It is a journey and it’s not the easiest and if we had someone advocating in our corner it would be beneficial.”

When asked what she would tell a youth in care looking to post-secondary school, Mainer said that she knows it can feel scary and that’s OK, just be patient.

ALSO READ: Expanded support to help B.C. youth from care attend university still falling short

“A lot of times when you spent your high school years dealing with a lot of trauma, education was not your top priority, so that doesn’t mean you can’t catch up or that you’re not as smart as everyone else in your class you’re just smart in different ways,” she said.

“If you’re going to school and you are trying you are putting an effort in that is absolutely amazing, you are beating the odds for youth in care.”


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

“We have to make a call out to address this now so our people don’t have to feel fearful,” said Tribal Chief Mina Holmes. (Carrier Sekani Tribal Council Facebook photo)
Carrier Sekani Tribal Council seeks Indigenous-led task force in northern B.C. hospitals

Request made in an open letter to federal minister Carolyn Bennett

Ellis Ross (left), BC Liberal party, celebrated with his wife, Tracey after being named the preliminary winner of the 2020 snap provincial election.
Ross presumptive Skeena winner in snap B.C. election

Election outcome will not be official until mail-in ballots are counted

Voting has officially closed throughout B.C. for the 2020 snap provincial election. (Clare Rayment)
Map of Skeena polling stations

Watch the updates on the map below as polling stations are counted throughout Skeena riding

NDP headquarters on election night, Oct. 24, 2020. (Katya Slepian/Black Press Media)
ELECTION 2020: Live blog from B.C. party headquarters

BC NDP projected to win majority government – but celebrations will look different this election

B.C. Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau outlines her party's climate action platform at Nanaimo's Vancouver Island Conference Centre earlier this month. (News Bulletin file photo)
Green leader Furstenau declared victor in her home riding on Vancouver Island

Cowichan Valley voters elect freshly minted party leader for her second term

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives for briefing on the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020 (B.C. government)
B.C. records 217 more COVID-19 cases, mask use urged

Infection spike continues, 21 senior facilities affected

An elderly woman wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past an advertisement for a television series in Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. has been under a COVID-19 state of emergency for more than half the year

Province has been under a state of emergency for 32 weeks – and counting

Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after defeating the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 to win the baseball World Series in Game 6 Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
L.A. Dodgers beat Rays 3-1 to win 1st World Series title since 1988

National League champs claim crown in six games

Seven-year-old Aaliyah Rosa was found dead in an apartment in Langley in July. (Langley Advance Times files)
Child’s body cold, no pulse: Off-duty cop testifies in Langley mother’s murder trial

The seven-year-old girl’s mother faces a first-degree murder charge

Tyrell Giroux was arrested by Williams Lake RCMP on Sunday, Oct. 25. (Facebook video screenshot)
Tsilhqot’in leaders call for suspension of officers seen in controversial Williams Lake arrest

Disturbing video demands an immediate, independent investigation, says TNG

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

People march during a climate strike in Montreal, Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Judge rejects 15 youths’ climate change lawsuit against Canadian government

Justice Michael Manson has granted the government’s motion to strike the plaintiffs’ claim

A woman walks through check in at WestJet at Pearson International airport during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Strong support for pre-flight COVID testing ahead of upcoming WestJet trial: YVR

Airport is partnering with UBC, which is helping choose the method of pre-flight testing

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provides an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau says pandemic ‘really sucks,’ and that Christmas gatherings are up in the air

The prime minister encouraged residents to continue to follow the advice of local health authorities

Most Read