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City Holler

Trish Kelly explores the issues and challenges that face our growing city.

We need to keep adult high school education accessible

If you go to the B.C. government’s website, you can find info about a great program called the Education Guarantee. But take a screenshot — I did — because it likely won’t be there for long.

Launched in 2008, the program offered tuition-free adult education for completing your high school diploma or getting high school level prerequisites needed for post-secondary programs. The program has been hugely successful, but the provincial government will make huge cuts to adult education effective May 1.

It’s not that young people don’t realize how important graduating is, but so many issues can derail a young person’s education: An ailing parent, a learning disability, even a big move. Once out of school, they soon feel the number of doors closed to them.

My mother, for example, wasn’t one to give life advice. Mostly, she was happy if we were happy, but she did drill into our heads that we had to get our Grade 12 diploma. She hadn’t managed to herself, having fled an abusive home as a teen. Years later, as a single parent with two kids, she earned her diploma and went on to a trades program and computer training. By the time I hit high school, she’d finally lifted us out of the poverty of my early life.

Career options for those without their diploma are bleak, and today, even a diploma is no assurance of a good job. That’s why so many seek adult education programs. In the Vancouver School Board’s adult ed programs alone, more than 2,500 people enroll every year.

Now, the government has placed on the chopping block free tuition for students who need upgrades to qualify for further career training. While they say that low-income students can apply for non-repayable grants to help cover the costs, this falls short of the funding the program used to receive.

Need Biology 12 to qualify for a care aide program? Chopped. Need an English 12 upgrade completed in the last five years? Chopped. Course fees will jump to more than $425. How many low-income workers in this expensive city will have that cash on hand? Adult ed courses don’t qualify for student loans, and colleges don’t offer payment plans. They just won’t go.

Better-off adult ed students who can afford tuition are going to find that without the critical mass of adult ed students, school boards will not be able to offer the variety of time slots currently available. With less flexible options that fit the busy schedules of working people, enrolment will slip further.

Are you mad yet? A forum has been organized for this Thursday evening at the Croatian Cultural Centre. Teachers, students and anyone whose mom worked a full-time job and went to night school to make her kids’ lives better should go.

The provincial government needs to keep their Education Guarantee. We need to tell them.

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