Regional News: No more tuition-free courses at COTR for adult upgrading

The cost of an education is on the rise for Adult Basic Education and domestic English as a Second Language.

The cost of an education is on the rise for Adult Basic Education (ABE) and domestic English as a Second Language (ESL).

On October 8th, the Board of Governors at the College of the Rockies (COTR) approved new tuition fees for the ABE in spite of the fact that adult upgrading courses have been tuition-free in B.C. since 2008. Now, students will pay $300 for a semester-long ABE course, $450 for a directed study ABE course, and $800 for an ESL course.

“While I understand the Board’s fiduciary responsibility of managing the College’s finances, I am also deeply troubled by yet another shift of financial burden to students,” said Leslie Molnar, president of the COTR’s Faculty Association. “Students already have many financial hurdles when they make the decision to return to school.”

COTR has been offering ABE throughout the East Kootenay region since the college opened in 1975. The program can be completed either online or in person.

However, there was a $22 million cut provincially from English Language Training for domestic students and an additional $6.9 million cut that kept the ABE programs tuition-free this year, according to the College of the Rockies Faculty Association.

There was also a $9 million cut to Adult Education funding for  the Kindergarten to Grade 12 sector, which came around the same time, Ms. Molnar added, as the government posted a $900 million surplus for the fiscal year ending on March 31st, 2015.

“We don’t agree with the priorities of the government,” explained Ms. Molnar. “We think that the government should be funding post-secondary education more fully.”

There will be an eight-page long grant application form made available for students who earn less than $24,647. However, those students could lose future funding if it takes more than the allotted time to complete a course.

The College of the Rockies Faculty Association reported in a recent press release that Vancouver Community College starting charging tuition for the ABE in January 2015 and student numbers had reduced to the point that 43 faculty members were laid off.

“As educators, our greatest concern is our students — how we can help them to grow and thrive, and to work towards their goals,” said Molnar. “We believe strongly in the value of public education, and as such, are deeply concerned by what appears to be a growing trend of declining accessibility and affordability of our public institutions.”