Announcement hailed as victory for students after determined campaign effort

VICTORIA—Students are celebrating a major victory today for some of British Columbia’s most impoverished students, with the BC government announcement that tuition fees will be eliminated for all adult basic education (ABE) and English as a second language (ESL) courses. The announcement comes on the heels of a massive government relations effort from the British Columbia Federation of Students (BCFS) since the funding cuts of 2015.

“Today the government heeded the call of students, faculty, and other members of the public by making all high school level education tuition fee-free once again in this province,” said Simka Marshall, Chairperson of the BCFS. “This commitment is a big step forward after years of skyrocketing tuition fees and declining enrolment in adult basic education programs.”

Over the past two years, the British Columbia Federation of Students, which represents thousands of ABE students in BC, has secured recommendations to make ABE tuition fee-free from the Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services through formal presentations and written submissions. In February more than 10,000 postcards and petitions were delivered to the Minister of Advanced Education, demonstrating widespread support for the issue.

“Premier John Horgan has made the right decision,” said Marshall. “ABE students, a majority of whom live below the poverty line, will no longer be expected to pay upwards of $1,600 for high school level courses.”

In 2014, the BC Liberals cut $6.9 million from adult basic education programming at post-secondary institutions in BC and removed the tuition fee-free mandate. A further $9 million was cut from adult basic education programming in the K-12 system. Public post-secondary institutions currently charge $1,600 per term in tuition fees for full-time ABE courses. Since the funding cuts, institutions have seen dramatic enrolment drops of 20 to 60 percent across the province.

In 2015 students launched a province-wide campaign calling on the provincial government to stop the cuts to ABE funding and reverse the introduction of tuition fees. The campaign, titled Don’t Close the Doors, has been endorsed by community organizations, labour unions, and 23 municipalities representing nearly one million British Columbians.

The British Columbia Federation of Students is composed of over 150,000 post-secondary students from 14 universities and colleges in every region in BC. Post-secondary students in British Columbia have been represented by the British Columbia Federation of Students and its predecessor organizations since 1966.