New program offers free post-secondary tuition for former youth in foster care
HALIFAX -- For every 1,000 youths in Canadian foster care, only eight go on to graduate with a post-secondary education.
But a new program aims to dramatically change those results.
New Brunswick Community College is the latest post-secondary institution to join a growing list of schools participating in a bursary program to ease the financial burden of youth leaving the foster care system.
Research shows young people leaving the foster care system struggle to achieve positive life outcomes compared to their peers.
NBCC will offer 10 students free tuition, as part of a nation wide initiative by the Child Welfare Political Action Committee.
“We have been approaching institutions across the country and asking them to consider allocating a few spaces for people who are currently, or formerly, from foster care, and making the positions tuition free,” explains Jane Kovarikova, CEO of Child Welfare PAC.
Kovarikova says she knows first hand the barriers that people who grow up in foster care face.
“I grew up in care myself, and being able to access post-secondary is life changing,” says Kovarikova, a former high school dropout, who is now a PHD candidate at Western University.
Youth who have been through the foster system in New Brunswick agree.
“I got goosebumps, like I cried when our network leaders shared this,” says Veronica Roy, a current NBCC student in Saint John.
Roy says she plans to apply the tuition bursary for her second year of studies.
New Brunswick was the last Maritime province to join the former youth in care tuition bursary.
Nova Scotia offers the program at Mount Saint Vincent University and Nova Scotia Community College, while students of P.E.I.’s Holland College can also apply for the bursary.
“It’s an opportunity for us to do one more thing that really aligns with the values of NBCC, and helping us with providing an opportunity for another under-represented group to be able to come to the college,” says Mary Ellen Kingston-Ritchie, NBCC's director of student development.
NBCC tuition funding will come from donations to the college.
Child Welfare PAC hopes to implement the program in as many post-secondary schools across Canada as possible.
Kovarikova says the program is a game changer.
“The truth is, when you’re aging out of care with such a challenging road ahead of you, you may not be ready to hit the life milestones at the exact time,: says Kovarikova. “The government has decided to make that opportunity available to you.”
As for Roy, the first-year student says the program will help with finances and also offer a boost of confidence for students like her.
“Hopefully this fire is going to catch and it’s going to spread,” says Roy.