Early this September, the government reinstated the tuition-free English as a Second Language (ESL) and Adult Basic Education (ABE) programs across B.C.
The NDP government took action on their promise to restore free tuition for ESL and ABE programs. As of this fall semester, UFV is offering these courses free for all domestic students.
ESL programs provide all levels of English instruction for students upgrading at UFV. English language proficiency is a prerequisite for the majority of post-secondary programs.
ABE courses are for adults looking to earn their Adult Dogwood (also known as the B.C. Adult Graduation Diploma), or who are looking to improve their English, computer, math, or science skills. The courses also fulfill prerequisites to enroll in postsecondary programs.
The introduction of the fees in 2015 led to a decrease in enrollment for the two programs at UFV, said Dr. Sue Brigden, dean of the faculty of access and continuing education.
“We have room in the existing classes that we have, that we have scheduled, and plan to schedule for the winter,” said Brigden. “So, I’m hoping that we can go back to the levels that we were prior to the implementation of tuition.”
According to the UFV 2016-2017 Factbook, from the 2014/2015 school year to the 2016/2017 year, there was a 40 per cent decrease in students in the ABE programs, and a 50 per cent decrease in the ESL certification program at UFV.
The announcement was made very close to the start of the school year, but Brigden has already seen an increase in students looking to enroll in upgrading courses for the next semester.
“They’re just now thinking about the winter because they now know it’s tuition free,” said Bridgen. “Most people don’t plan to go back to school with two weeks notice.”
As before, auxiliary fees, parking, textbooks and semester-based fees, including fees for the Student Union Society, the U-Pass, and the campus radio and newspaper are not exempt under this policy. Brigden noted, however, that many upgrading students demonstrating financial need are eligible for government grants, such as the Adult Upgrading Grant.
“Those who applied to that could get their tuition paid for, their auxiliary paid for, and textbooks, provided they met the criteria,” said Brigden. “But that’s a whole other hoop to jump through. [Free tuition] is removing one financial barrier for many.”
Brigden believes that access to free upgrading greatly benefits students. As the head of the upgrading department, and as an instructor, she has seen many reasons for students to upgrade.
“I’ve found many students come back just to get their Adult Dogwood so they can be a role model for their child, and they realized that, by upgrading, they were actually capable of going and doing more education programming. They gained confidence.”