Bennett explains province’s stance on ABE funding

Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett provided the provincial government’s side of the story.

Arne Petryshen

A recent article in the Daily Townsman about changes to Adult Basic Education funding at the College of the Rockies highlighted the college faculty and board’s position on the issue. Colleges around B.C. have started charging for Adult Basic Education programs that came about because of changes in the provincial government’s funding of the program.

Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett provided the provincial government’s side of the story.

Bennett said one important thing to note is that while adult upgrading courses at post secondary schools are moving from free tuition to a system where colleges may charge tuition, it doesn’t mean all students will have to pay.

“High school courses for ABE remain free for students who have not graduated and who are working towards a BC Adult Graduation Diploma,” Bennett said. “Graduated students in the K-12 system requiring foundation courses such as Math 1 will not be charged any cost.”

Bennett said that if you are an adult, and are looking to finish high school and get your diploma, nothing changes in the K-12 sector.

“Taxpayers will pay the cost,” he said.

On top of that, he said upfront, non-repayable Adult Upgrading Grants are available to low-income post secondary students to cover tuition, textbooks, supplies, transportation and child care

“Having those students who can afford to pay, pay at colleges for ABE, frees up grant money to help those who cannot afford to pay,” he said. “This is the same principle applied to most social programs. Those who need subsidy get it. Those who can afford to pay, pay.”

In terms of the income for grants, for a single person it is $23,647, and with two dependants, it becomes $36,192.

Bennett said the annual amount available for grants was increased by 33 per cent to $7.6 million.

It is the colleges themselves that set the amount they will charge those who can afford to pay.

Bennett said that 2,500 students have access grants so far in 2015-16, which he said is far more than under the previous policy

“The provision of ABE is a balance between access and the sustainability of the program,” Bennett said. “The policy before it was changed was determined to not be sustainable or to be capable of providing a quality product to students. The Ministries of Advanced Education K-12 Education determined that a policy of having students pay who can afford to pay was a balanced middle ground.”

He said many post secondary institutions have indicated to the ministry that they would need to start charging tuition or cease offering ESL programming.

For many of the institutions, tuition will not cover the full costs of delivering ABE courses. Bennett said introducing tuition will ensure long term sustainability of ABE