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NDP eliminate tuition for adult education, will end interest on student loans

Government says this will open door for tens of thousands of people to upgrade their skills and save money.

North Coast MLA Jennifer Rice is pleased with Premier John Horgan’s first major announcement last week, stating his government will eliminate tuition fees on adult basic education and English language learning programs.

“No British Columbian should have to pay to upgrade their skills or for a high school diploma,” Rice said in regards to the restored ABE funding.

“I recognize that people leave school for different reasons, but cost should never be a barrier to return. I am proud to be part of a government that makes good on campaign promises”

The announcement reverses action taken by the B.C. Liberals in 2015, which allowed education institutions to charge up to $1,600 per semester for full-time studies for adult learners. In turn, enrolment dropped by almost 35 per cent between the 2013-14 and 2016-17 school years.

Adult students who’ve prepaid for basic education and English language courses for September will be refunded, Horgan said.

Rice added that the elimination of fees for English Language Learning will help new residents to B.C. and Canada integrate into the wider society.

“New residents of our province should have fewer barriers to integration, not more,” she said. “I hope all residents requiring either ELL or ABE will utilize these great opportunities being restored by the New Democrat government.”

The cost to make basic education free again will be included in September’s budget.

The premier also confirmed NDP’s plan to end interest on student loans in B.C.

“We’re actually going to reduce the [interest on] borrowing for student loans to zero, interest free, as well as a completion grant for those who have finished their education,” said Horgan.

The grant will create an incentive to those who’ve built up a large student debt during studies, to knock off as much as $1,000 from their balance when they finish, he added.

Both announcements are welcome news for the B.C. Federation of Students which has been pressing years for these changes.

“Adults who want to go back to [high school] shouldn’t be charged for that,” said Simka Marshall, chairperson for the B.C. Federation of Students. “This is something we’ve been campaigning for, we’ve had 23 municipalities endorse our campaign calling for free adult education so this is a really welcome change.”