Graduated adults wishing to take high school courses through Nanaimo school district will find that some are no longer free.
Since 2007, the province’s Education Guarantee program provided tuition-free courses to adults looking to upgrade their high school education.
After consultations with school districts, the province decided in May to limit the program to classes commonly taken as prerequisites for different university and trades programs, such as senior math, science and English courses, or courses that help address skills gaps so that adults can successfully complete senior courses.
But all courses are still free for adults who have not graduated from high school and the adult basic education program at Vancouver Island University is not affected.
An Education Ministry spokesman said cost curtailment – enrolment increases meant program costs grew from $1.5 million in 2007 to $14 million last year – and the ministry’s focus on kindergarten to Grade 12 were the impetus to change.
Scott Saywell, the district’s learning alternatives principal, said the goal of the Education Guarantee program was to allow graduated adults to take courses needed to get into a career or a post-secondary education program for free.
The change won’t have much of an impact in Nanaimo, because the district averages between 100 and 150 adults taking courses each year and most only take courses that will continue to be offered free of charge, he said.
“A lot of them are taking biology and some math and English,” said Saywell. “In Nanaimo, 95 per cent will still be covered next year. In some districts this is a big issue because they have thousands of adults taking courses.”
The district hasn’t decided what to charge people for courses no longer covered, but Saywell expects it will follow the provincial average price of around $500 per course.
Another change to the Education Guarantee program starting in September is that the province will provide 75 per cent of the funding for tuition-free courses up front and the remaining 25 per cent will be handed over on course completion. The following year, only 50 per cent will be provided up front.
Completion is defined as a final mark based on a minimum of 65 per cent of total course work attempted.
The change is to boost course completion rates – ministry data shows that only about 55 per cent of graduated adults complete courses.
As of the end of June, the district had not decided how it would go about recouping the cost if someone dropped out before finishing a course.
The ministry also intends to make course material for a number of senior courses available to the public for free through its Open School B.C. website.
Jeannie Maltesen, interim dean of career and academic preparation at VIU, said the changes don’t affect the university’s adult basic education program, which is free, because the institution receives its funding through the Ministry of Advanced Education.
The university’s offerings are limited, she added.
“We have no softer courses really for students,” said Maltesen. “It’s all hard-core, rigorous courses to get them into university or college.”