NANAIMO—Students are celebrating the government’s announcement of a fully-funded tuition fee waiver for those who have been in the government care system.

Nearly 1,000 youth age-out of government care each year. Many of these youth, at 19 years of age, do not have foster or family homes to go to—they are on their own. In contrast, parents in BC typically provide their own children the opportunity to continue to live at home beyond 19, along with a host of financial and other supports.

“Youth aging out of care face additional barriers over those who are able to receive support from their families,” said Simka Marshall, Chairperson of the BC Federation of Students. “These range from financial resources to meet basic needs, to difficulty finding housing, to a lack of support and services to transition successfully to adulthood.”

Post-secondary education participation rates for youth from the care system are roughly half the rate of most young people in BC. Enrolment in university programs is even lower—university graduation rates among youth from care are one-sixth or less than the general population.

“Tuition fee waivers are an important first step in ensuring youth aging out of care have access to the same opportunities as others,” said Marshall.

For the past two years, students have supported the Fostering Change campaign of the Vancouver Foundation, which has called for a widespread, comprehensive, and fully-funded tuition fee waiver program. Though some institutions in BC currently offer a tuition waiver for young people from care, these programs are limited, institution-specific and often feature restrictive requirements for admission. Given that the BC government’s own data shows that funding from families is a primary source of financial support for those completing a four-year degree, a more universal approach to fill that gap for youth from the care system is needed.

“The post-secondary education system in British Columbia can be a tool for success, so long as it is financially and geographically accessible,” said Marshall. “Today’s decision to waive tuition fees for youth from the care system opens doors to opportunities that were previously closed for some of BC’s more vulnerable and marginalized young people.”

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 1975.