Open letter to the BC government regarding ABE funding

[I sent this letter to my local papers, The Prince George Citizen and The Prince George Free Press. I hope they publish it.]

I teach in the College and Career Prep (adult basic education) program at the College of New Caledonia, and it’s a job I thoroughly enjoy. Every semester, I witness the profoundly positive effects of adult upgrading–students who are finishing, continuing, or updating their high school education.

For many of my students, adult basic education (ABE) provides them with the key to a better chance at life: increased literacy, a high school diploma, a job that pays a living wage, or entrance to higher education/skilled training. In short, ABE gives people the opportunity to become fully participating citizens, engaged and invested in their communities.

In recent months, the BC government has stated that post-secondary institutions must improve student access to skills training and higher education, in order to meet BC’s need for more skilled and educated workers.

Therefore, I was shocked when this same government recently announced their intentions to cut a large chunk from ABE funding. Schools like CNC will be expected to make up the difference. How? The government wants ABE students to suddenly start paying tuition fees–as high as $1600 per semester! Some of the savings would be put into grants, but these are difficult for students to access and qualify for. Ironically, providing the funding directly to institutions would be more cost-efficient.

By reducing ABE funding, the BC government will also be reducing access to education for its most vulnerable citizens. The government’s own research has shown time and time again that it is primarily Aboriginal people, women, and low-income learners who access ABE programs and benefit most greatly from them.

I urge the BC government to rethink this damaging, shortsighted decision. Please reverse your plans to cut funding from these vital programs!

I also encourage everyone reading this to please contact your local MLA and express your support for adult basic education in BC. The funding is a small investment that pays enormous, long term economic and social dividends for our communities.

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