A basic stepping stone to higher education will soon be a little slipperier for adults looking to go back to school.
In the fall, Camosun College will begin charging hundreds of dollars in tuition on some high school equivalency courses.
The college will still have about 1,700 free spaces for students looking to earn their Dogwood. That’s 500 more than mandated by the province. But the concern is that some of the available free spaces will no longer include courses needed to pursue a post-secondary education.
Sahra MacLean, external executive for Camosun College Student Society, says the problem runs deeper than the number of seats.
“It’s who gets those seats, what classes those seats are in and when they’re offered,” said MacLean, who is also the B.C. executive with the Canadian Federation of Students. “By just saying we’re offering x-number of seats, it’s not really addressing the issue. It’s a quality over quantity issue.”
Students accessing the adult basic education courses are coming back to school for any number of reasons, facing any number of challenges, whether they’re young or single parents, people with disabilities, or new immigrants, MacLean said.
“They all come together here to try and get that education,” MacLean said. “Grade 12 is what everyone in this province should be able to get.”
Camosun is in the midst of replacing a selection of adult basic education courses, including all high school equivalency science courses, to 100-level, tuition-bearing courses.
Grade 11 and 12 equivalency courses in chemistry, physics and biology, for example, will now cost $361.80 or $440.10, depending on the course.
Last year, equivalency courses were tuition free.
“It’s not a path that we’re absolutely thrilled about,” said John Boraas, dean of Camosun College’s school of access.
“It’s not my first choice on how we would have responded. It’s balancing fiscal responsibilities.”
Boraas oversees the delivery of all English and math courses, some of which will also now charge tuition.
The depth of those new 100-level courses has been expanded to meet both student needs and course prerequisites in preparation for college and university programs, he said. But not all of the new courses are university-transferrable.
“We either had to decide that we just wouldn’t (offer adult basic education), or find a different way to create some capacity that gives students some options,” Boraas said, lauding the student society’s efforts to stand up for accessible education.
“For us, our problem is how do we deal with too little money and too much demand?”