The new NDP government in B.C. is eliminating tuition fees on adult basic education or English language learning programs, reversing a 2015 decision by the B.C. Liberals, Premier John Horgan announced Tuesday.
Horgan said the announcement means the NDP has delivered on a promise made during the election campaign.
"We've seen literally thousands of people not participate or not move forward with English language learning and adult basic education as a result of the barriers that costs impose on people," Horgan said at a media event.
"We wanted to get this out as quickly as possible so that the September school year can see an increase in enrolment."
In 2015, institutions were allowed to set fees for adult basic education and English language learning programs up to $1,600 per semester per student — and enrolment dropped substantially, according to the NDP.
Horgan did not have a cost estimate for the move, telling reporters at Camosun College in Victoria that those numbers would be available next month.
He also said his party's election promise to make provincial student loans interest free and create a $1,000 grant for post-secondary students who complete their studies would be fulfilled in September.
University of British Columbia professor of education Shauna Butterwick applauded the change in policy and believes it will improve access to education for prospective low-income students.
Some of those students did not graduate from high school; others may have been forced out of old industries by the changing economy, and some of them could be those who did graduate from high school over five years ago but have to retake courses as the curriculum changes.
"The vast majority of them continue to go onto other post-secondary education programs," she told On The Coast guest host Gloria Macarenko.
"It's just helping students get to programs that are career-focused and can get them jobs with a living wage."
Butterwick says she has heard anecdotally that many students who wanted to get into adult basic education or English language learning but can not afford to often go onto social assistance or take low-paying service sector jobs.
She argues getting more of those prospective students into higher education will secure higher paying jobs for students and more taxable income for the province.