Students Won’t Bear the Cost of Tuition for ABE/Upgrading at Selkirk

Good news in an article by Tracy Connery from the Lower Columbia Initiatives website:

Students won’t be out of pocket to pay as Selkirk College joins other British Columbian post-secondary institutes in implementing tuition fees for upgrading courses in their School of Academic Upgrading & Development.

In late-2014, the Provincial Government announced it would no longer provide the $6.9 million to the public post-secondary system for tuition-free delivery of Adult Basic Education (ABE) courses. At the same time, it revised the ABE Student Assistance Program (ABESAP) to create the Adult Upgrading Grant (AUG) to assist students to upgrade.

Selkirk College wants to keep upgrading courses accessible to students, so they can get pre-requisites for other college or university programs, complete a high school diploma, improve study, and/or learn new math, English, science and computer concepts. To do this, upgrading courses offered in Castlegar, Kaslo, Grand Forks, Nakusp, Nelson, and Trail will have full financial support available to all students.

“We want students to know that our doors are open,” says Allison Alder, chair of School of Academic Upgrading & Development. “Learners upgrade for many reasons, but they all have one thing in common: they come here to improve – and the doors to improving remain open. Whether upgrading for college entry or to build confidence in math, we want starting with us to be easy.”

Although most institutions started to charge for these programs during 2015, Selkirk College maintained its free tuition to this point while reviewing the regional situation and student profile.

This spring, Selkirk College began a pilot program as it transitions to the new system. Domestic students enrolling in upgrading courses now apply for the new provincial AUG funding which is handed out by the provincial government based on financial need. These provincial monies cover costs for tuition, fees, textbooks, and provide assistance with travel, childcare and supplies.

Selkirk College has established a Supplemental Academic Upgrading Bursary (SAUB) to support students not covered by AUG. SAUB applicants will have tuition, fees and textbook costs covered.

To help students through the AUG/SAUB application process, the college has brought Upgrading Assistant Kate Nott on board.

“We are encouraging students to get in touch with me now, to begin the registration process and paperwork if they are thinking about taking an upgrading course at Selkirk College this fall,” says Nott. “I’m available to help students and will be at all our campuses and centres on set dates throughout the summer.”

Salmo resident Susan Paice is taking prerequisite courses at Selkirk College in Nelson as she furthers her education. She just finished her AUG/SAUB application process.

“There was no room for error because there was assistance every step of the way,” says Paice.

Now in her second semester, Paice was aware funding changes were up coming and despite assurances had initial concerns because working part-time while studying leaves her with a tight budget.

“I am very grateful that the college has taken it upon themselves to see that we still get this funded and that financially there isn’t an issue to upgrade,” says Paice. “So much work took place to ensure this wouldn’t come out of a student’s pocket.”

In the past two years, the School of Academic Upgrading & Development has had 464 and 535 students enrolled respectively. Students took courses including Adult Basic Education and College Prep (both high school upgrading), and Adult Special Education (Transitional Training).

The School of Academic Upgrading & Development is an important feeder system for programming at Selkirk College. Nearly one-quarter continue their education at Selkirk College after taking upgrading courses at the local post-secondary institution.

For more information about upgrading courses or to register, contact Upgrading Assistant Kate Nott at 250.354.3230 or

For more information please contact:

Allison Alder Chair, School of Academic Upgrading & Development 250.354.3214



Online/distributed learning and ABE

I teach at the College of New Caledonia, and only 8 of the 21 First Nations communities served by us have access to broadband internet. It’s easy for the Ministry to forget not everyone has equal access to technology or the infrastructure needed for online (distributed) learning.

This is on top of the issues Jan Weiten has alluded to in her excellent comment about the poor fit between our most vulnerable ABE students and online learning–the research shows that the students who are most successful at online learning are students who already have good academic skills. Our students are usually coming to school to learn those skills.

Here is some interesting reading from one of Columbia University’s series of research papers on the effects of online learning:

Online learning has generated enthusiasm for its potential to promote greater access to college by reducing the cost and time of commuting and by allowing students to study on a schedule that is optimal for them.

The enthusiasm surrounding these and other innovative, technology-based programs has led educators to ask whether online learning could be leveraged to increase the academic access, progression, and success of low-income and underprepared college students as well. However, this review of the postsecondary literature on online learning strongly suggests that online coursework–at least as currently and typically implemented–may hinder progression for low-income and underprepared students.

Online Learning: Does It Help Low-Income and Underprepared Students? (Assessment of Evidence Series), by Shanna Smith Jaggars