Tuition fees a barrier to struggling workers

Meeting the challenges of today’s rapidly changing workplace is one of the key issues facing British Columbia. And in one of his first major announcements since becoming premier, John Horgan signalled the new NDP government is prepared to tackle the challenge head on.

Horgan was at Camosun College’s Lansdowne campus Tuesday morning to announce the province will eliminate tuition fees on adult basic education and English language learning programs.

“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.”

Adults facing language difficulties and struggling with basic educational needs were at risk of being left behind in the workplace. Tuition costs were an unfair and unnecessary burden on those already having difficulty finding employment.

The previous Liberal government introduced policy in 2015 that charged for Adult Basic Education and English Language Learning, with fees limited to a maximum of $1,600 per semester of full-time studies. For someone trying to upgrade their skills to enter or re-enter the workforce, $1,600 can be a daunting figure, and the numbers bear this out. Following the introduction of the policy, enrolment in adult basic education and English language programs dropped almost 35 per cent from 10,244 full-time equivalent spaces in 2013/14 to 6,692 full-time equivalent spaces in 2016/17.

“Tuition fees on ABE and ELL programs shut people out. We’re reopening those doors,” said Education Minister Rob Fleming. “Now any British Columbian can go back to school free of charge, upgrade their skills and build a better life for themselves and their families.”

While eliminating adult tuition fees brings a reprieve to many struggling B.C. families, they also enhance the skills of the province’s workforce, better positioning B.C. to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing global economy.