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Fewer free courses offered to high school grads

Graduating high school students will have fewer free options for upgrading their education for post-secondary entrance once they turn 19 and should start planning now to avoid hefty tuition fees.

Graduating high school students will have fewer free options for upgrading their education for post-secondary entrance once they turn 19 and should start planning now to avoid hefty tuition fees.

The province is no longer paying tuition fees for graduated adults to upgrade their education except for English 12, Biology 12, Math 11 and 12, Chemistry 11 and Physics 11. To enroll in any other high school credit courses, graduated adults will have to pay tuition of about $400. School age and non-graduated adults will continue to be funded in all high school credit courses.

Graduated young adults get a break until they turn 19 but, after that, they will have to pay tuition fees for courses other than those listed..

Assistant Superintendent Patricia Gartland who is responsible for continuing education says School District 43 is waiting for more details to see how these changes will unfold.

"We are awaiting the ministry's definition of course completion.We are hopeful that English 11, Communications 11 and 12, Physics 11, and Chemistry 12 might be reinstated. There is the possibility of charging tuition fees in order to continue to offer courses that are no longer funded - if enrollments warrant," Gartland explained in an email.

The changes also mean that high school grads looking to upgrade their education will have to pay more attention to their course selection. School District 43's continuing education principal Sarah Husband said students should be making "informed decisions" if they want avoid paying fees.

However, Literacy Foundation Courses, mostly in English, Math and Science competency, which many new English speakers take, will still be free under the Education Guarantee.

The Ministry of Education changes are an effort to make sure education "dollars are well spent," Husband said.

But the BC Teachers' Federation said the change will be particularly onerous for impoverished students and some adult students in other districts have expressed concerns about having to pay for courses that were tuition-free for about four years.

In SD43, Husband said, the effect is negligible because there aren't many graduated adults taking academic upgrading courses here beyond the courses that will remain funded. Only about about 23 people are currently enrolled in Physics 12, which doesn't qualify for free tuition, and a handful of other graduated adults are enrolled in other courses that are no longer free.

But the BC School District Continuing Education Directors' Association believes the province was too rigourous in whittling down the number of tuition-free courses in its Education Guarantee program, and advocates the return of free tuition for English 11, Communications 11 and 12, Physics 12 and Chemistry 12.

Husband, who is the association's president, said those courses are still valuable for students seeking to upgrade their education for post-secondary education.

The province is also changing the way it funds the eligible academic courses by holding back partial funding until they are completed. Districts are still in the dark as to how completion will be "defined" and what evidence will be required.

dstrandberg@tricitynews.com