Brief thoughts on the recent ABE tuition change announcement

It’s been a busy time of year–end of semester, now the holidays–and I haven’t written yet about the BC government’s recent announcement about cuts to ABE funding. In a nutshell: the BC government has announced it will be cutting base funding to post-secondary institutions in 2015, specifically the amount previously allotted to cover tuition for adult literacy/adult basic education/upgrading. PSIs have been instructed to make up the difference through any means necessary, including charging tuition for these programs up to $1600 per semester. That’s a jump from $0 to $1600! Historically, institutions have tried to make tuition low or free for these programs, because the students who access them are usually unable to afford it.

This announcement, made quietly in December, has sent post-secondary ABE programs reeling. No one expected this. It is a cut that will have seriously detrimental consequences on the most vulnerable of our students: low income learners, Aboriginal students, the geographically isolated, immigrants and refugees, and inner city residents. I have been in conversations with my local and provincial colleagues and we are all stunned. This may be unprofessional of me to admit, but I nearly broke down in tears when speaking about this with the head of our student association. I am very worried about our students and the future of these vital programs.

I’m supposed to be on holiday with my family right now, so I’ll leave it at this for the moment, but here is a blog with links about the situation. The timing of this announcement has made it hard to immediately rally all the troops (hmm…what a strange coincidence) but make no mistake, we will be at it in full force in January. More thoughts on this later, anyway.

Basic Education is a Basic Right

6 thoughts on “Brief thoughts on the recent ABE tuition change announcement

  1. Katherine Wikoff says:

    I’m in Wisconsin so hadn’t heard about this. Yes, the timing is certainly both Machiavellian and Scrooge-like at the same time. What’s that line of Jacob Marley’s? “Mankind was my business!” It seems so wrong to make cuts that disproportionately harm those least able to safeguard their own interests.

    • mworfolk says:

      It really does, doesn’t it? Hmm, I may need to borrow your reference to Scrooge! It’s very appropriate.

      Wisconsin and BC probably have some things in common…politicians who seem to enjoy cutting education funding, unfortunately! (Scott Walker made it into the news up here!)

  2. Kate Nonesuch says:

    I hadn’t heard about this. Shocking, and shows how out of touch with reality the government is, that they think people who need basic literacy classes could afford to pay tuition. Or are they attacking post secondary institutions, hoping to download the work onto voluntary organizations, already underfunded?

    • mworfolk says:

      It is shocking–I agree with you that it is the result of a government that is out of touch or wilfully negligent of its duty to the disenfranchised. I think they are hoping to download responsibility to school boards (ABE will remain tuition free for those completing a high school diploma IF done through the school district), but BC school districts are not mandated to provide ABE. Many SDs don’t provide any ABE courses, or–like where I live–they only provide independent study. That doesn’t tend to work well, especially for literacy or low level learners. However, it’s cheaper.

      Post-secondary institutions are mandated to provide ABE, on the other hand…and in some places we are the only game in town.

    • mworfolk says:

      The government is also offering Adult Upgrading Grants (formerly ABESAP) for extremely low income learners. However, the application process is an administrative time and money suck, and also a barrier to access for low literacy learners. Who accesses our programs? Why, low literacy learners who are coming back to school for help with learning to fill out forms…aaaargh.

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