ABE student, cut off from taking night classes, speaks up in the Vancouver Sun – BC’s working poor: Education essential to better opportunities



adult literacy and basic education in the 2017 Federal budget

Brigid Hayes’ ‘As I was saying….’ is informative blog on issues of adult literacy and basic education funding. Brigid has published an analysis of the Federal budget March 2017 from an adult education lens. I wonder how these new policies and budget items, particularly around access to loans and grants for adult literacy learners enrolled in PSIs will play out in BC, where the province has all but walked away from funding for adult education in colleges and universities.

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 abe@selkirk.ca.

For more information please contact:

Allison Alder Chair, School of Academic Upgrading & Development 250.354.3214


Education must be seen as a core component of BC’s economic strategy – SFU President Andrew Petter

From Charlie Smith’s article in the Georgia Straight, May 28, 2016:

“Today, over 95,000 B.C. residents are not employed because they have not obtained a level of education adequate to meet current employers’ needs.’ And while some of this educational shortfall is in trades and applied skills, the largest gap, it turns out, is in bachelor- and graduate-level education.”

Part of the reason is that 57 percent of B.C. employers require applicants to have university degrees.


Petter told the Vancouver Board of Trade there needs to be a “greater appreciation for the role of human capital in advancing our position in the world economy”.

“Instead of calling upon universities and colleges merely to respond to predetermined labour market demands, we need to empower our institutions to develop our labour markets and to drive our economic future,” the SFU president said. “While our competitors in Europe and Asia invest in education as a primary feature of their economic strategies, we look to our natural resources and appear to regard education—pardon the pun—as secondary.”

Read the full article here.

SFU president Andrew Petter says education must be seen as a core component of B.C.’s economic strategy

By Charlie Smith, Georgia Straight, May 28, 2016




Elizabeth James’ “Just Asking” column on ABE in the North Shore News

North Shore News columnist Elizabeth James calls on the BC government to reinstate free adult basic education.

Whatever the reason may be, the government’s decision to discriminate against a “person or class of persons…” on the basis of age is not only unconscionable, it contravenes the Human Rights Act.

As Prof. Markwick reminds us, Plant wrote, “Failure to complete high school … limits job and career options and is often associated with poor life outcomes such as higher criminality, poorer health and a greater dependence on social services …”

Read James’ full article.

B.C.’s blueprint for education fails adult learners
MAY 24, 2016


“I am pleased and honoured to accept this role that brings me back to Capilano University at a time of dynamic development and adaptation to meet the diverse needs of today’s students.”
— J. Paul Dangerfield

When J. Paul Dangerfield takes up his position as president and vice-chancellor of Capilano University in October, we can only hope his proven skills in communication and leadership development can reopen the doors to free basic education for students ages 19 and over who, for diverse reasons, need those courses.

Michael Markwick, professor in the university’s School of Communication and spokesperson for educationfairness.ca explained the issue this way: “In 2015, the Clark government replaced a fair system of free access to basic education for learners 19 or older with an unwieldy patchwork of limited, income-based and taxable grants that are capped at three years.”

The immediate result for Cap has been declining enrolment in the adult basic education courses. In turn, this bars vulnerable students from aspiring to a university education and broader career opportunities.

North Shore student Kat Sorritelli knows the effect only too well.

As an A-B student, Kat graduated from high school in 2005 and worked until she took maternity leave in 2013. Five months after returning to work in 2014, her job came to an end. At that point, Kat re-evaluated the future she was facing for herself and her daughter.

“It was not an easy decision but I chose to return to school to give us both a better life. It will give us more security and stability for the future,” she said.

In order for Kat to pursue that path, her decision meant she needed to upgrade her outdated high school levels in mathematics and science.

Her problem with that has become one of affordability. Now the grants are calculated according to income — and taxed as well. Kat says it was the worst feeling to have to ask her family for money. The changes to the provincial rules also mean she can only afford one course per semester which, right now, is pre-calculus 11.

“I feel this takes money away from three generations — my family, myself and, indirectly, my daughter,” Kat said.

So what happened to then B.C. Liberal attorney general Geoff Plant’s lofty Campus 2020 recommendations?

As Prof. Markwick reminds us, Plant wrote, “Failure to complete high school … limits job and career options and is often associated with poor life outcomes such as higher criminality, poorer health and a greater dependence on social services …”

Is that the future our society wants for Kat and for other vulnerable students?

Over the long term and no matter their age, ensuring a person’s basic education or upgrading their skills is an investment, not a cost to society.

In January 2015, when outgoing Cap president Kris Bulcroft announced she would be stepping down this July — a year beyond the end of her contract — she said she hoped the extra time would enable her to help guide the school through some looming challenges, not the least of which would be the third million-dollar budgetary deficit in a row.

Yet right out of the starting gate, and for some still unexplained reason, Capilano University has never received the level of funding former premier Gordon Campbell allocated to other colleges when he upgraded them to university status. Why is that, Premier Clark? No bafflegab, straight out, why is that?

Whatever the reason may be, the government’s decision to discriminate against a “person or class of persons…” on the basis of age is not only unconscionable, it contravenes the Human Rights Act.

Saying she knows two students who could not register this semester because ABE tuition fees were reinstated, Kat worries declining enrolment will lead to program cuts.

“I feel the government wants the population to be dumb. I am a hard-working, tax-paying single mother who just wants her basic education back so that I can become an even better contributing member of the community,” she said.

For the well-being of our North Shore community, and especially for the younger generation, it would be good to hear how the incoming president plans to persuade the province to “right the basic education ship” and enable Cap to steer a steady course and fulfil the mandate it was given to make that education available to all, regardless of age and financial status.

After 16 years with the multi-disciplinary Perinatal Programme of B.C. and later in various endeavours in the growing high-tech industry, Elizabeth James now connects the dots every second Wednesday on local, regional and provincial issues. She can be reached via email at rimco@shaw.ca.
© 2016 North Shore News

“VSB cites ‘chronic’ underfunding in rejecting budget cuts…”

As reported by Bethany Lindsay in the Vancouver Sun, April 28, 2016

“Vancouver School Board chairman Mike Lombardi said his fellow Vision trustees have long said they are prepared to face the consequences of voting against the budget, and railed against what they describe as chronic government underfunding.”

“Green trustee Janet Fraser was the deciding vote….”

“The 5-4 ‘No’ vote elicited a noisy standing ovation from the large audience of parents and teachers.”

See link to full article. http://vancouversun.com/news/local-news/vsb-cites-chronic-underfunding-in-rejecting-budget-cuts-by-5-4-vote