BC ABE Tuition Fee Policy and Adult Upgrading Grants Promote “Cream-Skimming”

By allowing pubic post-secondary institutions to charge tuition fees for Adult Basic Education, the BC government is rendering Adult Upgrading Grant funding ineffectual for most ABE students. Students who can get graduated the fastest will benefit from funding. The effect is “cream-skimming”. Students who face multiple barriers to education, need more time to complete a basic education, and need it most will not get served.


Students Caught in BC ABE Funding Crisis

Further to Trevor Flynn’s moving experience of a student caught in the BC ABE tuition fee crisis (The Tyee, January 15, 2015, and posted earlier in this blog), students who face multiple barriers to education are well represented in BC’s post-secondary ABE programs. Read a sampling of Vancouver Community College, Basic Education Department (Fundamental Level ABE) student profiles excerpted from Re-Framing the Conversation: Respecting Adult Basic Education in BC.

ABE Learner Profiles, pp. 7-8

In BC post-secondary, Fundamental Level ABE students have access to stable, quality programming tailored to their unique needs. Upon completion of Basic Education at VCC, students also have access to further upgrading, up to and including high school graduation, training programs, practicums, and better employment prospects.

Click below to access the full document.

Re-Framing the Conversation – Respecting Adult Basic Education in BC (Dec 2014)

Tyee article on ABE cuts

This article appeared today in The Tyee, written by Katie Hyslop. It outlines the devils in the details regarding the cuts to ABE, noting that students enrolled in school district ABE are not eligible for the Adult Upgrading Grant, and that the $9 million the Ministry of Education will save in not funding ABE will be re-invested in the K – 12 system.

The article focus on the consequences of this policy for a person with health difficulties who experienced interrupted schooling. Do you have stories of how learners and local communities will be effected by the cuts to ABE? Please post in the comments section or let us know and we can post the story for you.

Melinda Worfolk’s letter to Andrew Wilkinson

Andrew Wilkinson is the brand new minister of Advanced Education. This letter was written to the new Minister by adult educator Melinda Worfolk regarding the consequences of these cuts for adults in her community. Are you writing letters to the Minister, your institution and to your local papers? If so, please consider sharing them here.

PS: Visit Melinda’s Education Blog  for more thoughts on ABE tuition cuts as well many other great adult learning resources.

Dear Minister Wilkinson:

I teach in the College and Career Prep (adult basic education) program at the College of New Caledonia, and every semester, I see the life changing positive impacts for students who are finishing, continuing, or updating their high school education. Adult basic education (ABE) provides many of them with the key to a better life through increased literacy, a high school diploma, a job that pays a living wage, or entrance to higher education/skilled training. ABE gives people the opportunity to become fully participating citizens in their own communities.

In recent months, the BC government has emphasized that post-secondary institutions must improve student access to skills training and higher education, in order to meet BC’s need for more skilled and educated workers.

Therefore, I was shocked when your predecessor, the Honourable Amrik Virk, recently announced the Ministry of Advanced Education’s intentions to make large cuts to ABE base funding. Post-secondary institutions will be expected to make up the difference, with an emphasis on the reinstatement of ABE tuition fees–as high as $1600 per semester. This is untenable for most of our students. Some of the savings is supposed to be put into grants, but these are limited funds that are difficult for students to access and qualify for. Ironically, providing the funding directly to institutions would be more cost-efficient.

By reducing ABE funding, the BC government will also be reducing access to education for its most vulnerable citizens. The Ministry’s own research has shown time and time again that it is primarily Aboriginal people, women, and low-income learners who access ABE programs and benefit most greatly from them.

Please rethink this damaging, shortsighted decision and reverse the plans to cut funding from these vital programs. It is a small investment that pays enormous, long term economic and social dividends for our communities.

Sincerely yours,

Melinda Worfolk

New report on ABE

Lynn Horvat, an adult educator at VCC, has just completed her study, Re-Framing the Conversation: Respecting Adult Basic Education in BC (2014), on ABE policy in BC. Her report is an excellent source of accessible information on adult education policies in BC and in Canada, neoliberal effects on access to education, policy rules, portraits of adult basic education students, statistics on public funding for adult education  and even an inclusion of the implications of the recently announced tuition fee policy for ABE students.  Lynn’s work adds more weight to the view shared by many in in the ABE and ESL fields that what is happening in these sectors today offers a glimpse into what may be in store for our publicly funded K – 12 education system:


Selkirk college won’t charge tuition fees

Selkirk college has announced it will not be charging tuition fees to ABE students in the new year, providing there is no change to the terms of their operating grants. College President Angus Graeme offers this rationale:

“In particular, ABE provides accessible educational opportunities for adult students in many communities throughout the region and from a broad range of socio-economic circumstances. For many students it represents a critical transition back into the education system.”

Matthew Jameson, President of the Selkirk College Students’ Union Local 4     notes that:

“Colleges require [ABE courses] as pre-requisites to get into programs and the people going into the ABE are often from the lower income bracket so charging $320 makes everything worse.”

ABE in BC fact sheet

This fact sheet produced by the Canadian Federation of Students is designed as an advocacy and information tool. It offers excellent information about the history of ABE policy in BC and the role of ABE in personal lives, family life, economic participation and socio-economic equality.