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The facts on adult upgrading and ESL grants

Posted on July 30, 2015

Why do adult upgrading and ESL/EAL programs in BC now charge tuition? What kinds of assistance are out there? How do I access them? Read the Government of BC's important fact sheet below to get your answers.

FACTSHEET: Adult upgrading courses and grants

Public post-secondary institutions have the option to charge tuition fees, effective Jan. 1, 2015, to keep adult upgrading and English as a Second Language (ESL) programs sustainable and accessible, while providing support for low-income students.

The decision to allow institutions to charge tuition for adult upgrading programs was necessary to ensure sustainability of these important programs in the post-secondary sector. The ministry continues to subsidize the delivery of adult upgrading through the post-secondary institutions’ annual base operating grants.

Adult students who have the means to do so will be expected to contribute to the cost of the upgrading needed for further studies and entry into the workforce. Low-income students who cannot afford to pay will have access to grants that cover tuition and other education-related costs such as supplies, textbooks, transportation and childcare,

Government is providing one-time funding of $6.9 million in 2015-16 to help institutions transition to the new delivery model. The funding will give institutions the opportunity to plan for the changes needed if they decide to move to a tuition-based model.

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 redirected $6.9 million in base funding to the public post-secondary system to partially compensate institutions for lost adult-upgrading tuition revenues.
  • Delivery costs have increased since 2008, and institutions have said they find 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.
  • Public post-secondary institutions delivered adult upgrading courses to 25,000 students and ESL to approximately 10,000 students in 2013-14.
  • Tuition fees for adult upgrading will be set 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, 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.

Facts about Adult Upgrading Grants:

  • Upfront, non-repayable grants are available for low-income students attending adult upgrading courses, including ESL, at public post-secondary institutions.
  • Students who can show they need financial aid may receive a grant to pay for tuition, textbooks, supplies, transportation and 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 all, or a portion, of the costs of tuition, textbooks, supplies, transportation and childcare depending on the adult student’s income.
  • 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 of their tuition cost.
  • These changes are intended to support increased demand for financial assistance from low-income students taking upgrading or ESL.

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

The table below shows the maximum gross family income limits for Adult Upgrading Grant eligibility:

Family Size / Income Level 2014-15

1    $23,647

2    $29,439

3    $36,192

4    $43,941

5    $49,839

6    $56,209

7 or more    $62,581


Source: BC Government News