Although most provinces are now charging tuition for Adult Basic Education (ABE), Selkirk College is bucking the trend. Tuition for ABE at Selkirk in Grand Forks will remain free throughout the winter session.
In 2008, the provincial government mandated that all ABE should be free so they gave additional money to colleges and universities to ensure that would happen. In December 2014, the government had a shift in policy and decided to no longer mandate that institutions provide ABE for free.
“So they basically allowed institutions to make their own choice and charging tuition,” said Allison Adler, dean of academic upgrading for Selkirk College. “At the same time they took back that money they gave us in 2008.”
Adler did say the money was just a portion of the budget for ABE. “They didn’t take all the money away,” she said. “You don’t have to offer it tuition-free. How you determine whatever you’re going to do is up to you.”
Adler added that the government is offering extra money in grants this year to help those who are disadvantaged to take ABE.
“They said we can charge tuition and we’ll help people pay it,” she said. “What we’ve done at Selkirk is that we’ve decided to take this year to find out what the right approach is for our area. That’s why we still don’t have tuition. In Grand Forks we won’t until next year, if at all.”
Adler said no matter what they decide, they want to ensure that ABE is accessible to those who need it.
“We want people who need to upgrade to be able to upgrade,” she said. “That’s why we’ve decided to use this year to come up with the right plan. So if we do charge tuition we’ll have the things in place to make sure people can come whether or not they can afford it. We still want it to be accessible to those who need it.”
Adler said there are a variety of reasons why people take ABE, from a desire to learn to wanting to change careers to get their high school graduation to upgrading to qualify for university.
“There are lots of different reasons why people come and some of it is personal, some is professional,” she said. “We’re building a plan to keep it accessible. What we hope is that there won’t be a bump for students and they’ll keep coming. Either they will qualify for a grant if we charge tuition or we’ll have something else in place. We don’t want to create hardships.”