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OC introduces tuition for upgrading but help is at hand for students
Okanagan College Media Release

Okanagan College is implementing tuition fees for domestic students taking upgrading courses, but government and college financial aid will mean many of those students won’t be out of pocket to pay.

The decision comes in the wake of a 2014 change in provincial direction to charge fees for upgrading and ESL at post-secondary institutions. The College’s Board of Governors decided Tuesday to implement the tuition fee schedule for domestic Adult Basic Education (ABE) and English as a Second Language (ESL) programs. Okanagan College is among the last B.C. institutions to do so.

Accompanying the tuition fee schedule, though, the Board also chose to implement a College bursary program that will supplement the province’s Adult Upgrading Grant (AUG). As a result, students taking fundamental and intermediate level ABE and ESL courses can get their tuition covered if they apply for the financial aid. Students taking advanced and provincial level ABE and ESL courses will still be eligible for financial aid but income thresholds will come into play.

The tuition fees will come into effect in May. Domestic students taking any level of ABE or ESL courses between May and September will be eligible for full tuition support, and the income thresholds for students taking advanced and provincial level courses will come into effect for the fall semester.

The move to implement tuition fees comes in the wake of a provincial policy shift and elimination of grants from the province to post-secondary institutions in the province to offset ABE and ESL tuition. In Okanagan College’s case, that grant reduction totalled $765,000 annually.

“We are doing what we can to minimize barriers for students who need upgrading courses,” explains Roy Daykin, the College’s Vice President of Finance and Administration. “While the College needs the tuition revenue from these programs to offset the loss of provincial grants, we also respect the need to give students access to the courses they require to move ahead in their career and education plans.”

Cost of the courses varies according to the number of instructional hours involved. Tuition for an 80-hour course over a semester would be $400. A maximum tuition has been established - $1,600 per semester for a full-time student, as per provincial policy.

Daykin notes that as part of the decision to charge tuition for ABE and ESL, the College will allocate some of the funds to the bursary program to support students who require financial help with tuition. Students will have to apply for provincial grant funds before being considered for the College bursary program. The College will also be hiring additional financial aid officers who will help affected ABE and ESL students apply for provincial or College grants.

Full details will be communicated to prospective students and the general public in the months ahead.

In the 2014-15 academic year, 1,638 domestic students took ABE courses at Okanagan College. Eighty-one domestic students took ESL courses in the same period.