Camosun College and eight other post-secondary schools will receive another $6.7 million to soften the blow of losing federal money for programs that teach English as a second language to immigrants.
The B.C. government has now released a total of $17.2 million to colleges and universities in recent weeks.
Advanced Education Minister Amrik Virk says the one-time money will give schools a year to wind down their programs rather than abruptly closing their doors next month.
The province announced last year that, effective April 1, colleges and universities would lose $17 million in federal money to provide ESL training to immigrants and domestic students.
Virk said Citizenship and Immigration Canada had decided to award contracts directly to non-profit agencies and a limited number of post-secondary institutions rather than funnel it through the provincial government to colleges and universities.
Camosun College, which was among the hardest hit, was initially told it would lose $2.5 million. President Kathryn Laurin promptly announced a hiring freeze amid concerns about a mounting deficit.
The government has since released about $2.4 million in transition money to Camosun.
Joan Yates, Camosun’s vice-president of communications, said the money allows the school to reinstate its ESL programs for another year and plan for the future. None of the current ESL students will be forced to quit and some new students have been accepted to one-year programs, she said.
Camosun now has to focus on what it will do after the one-time money runs out a year from now.
“We still need to do some work,” Yates said. “But [the money] does allow us to have the conversation and look for options in a way that is a little gentler.”
Virk’s ministry, meanwhile, is still waiting to see what the new federal program will look like and what agencies or schools will receive contracts to deliver ESL training.
Yates said Camosun applied for the federal money, but has yet to receive a final answer. “We don’t know, largely because announcements have not been made completely for all those federal contracts. … We continue to be hopeful, but we’re moving on with what we have.”
Of the $6.7 million released Friday, Camosun will receive $993,000 while Vancouver Community College will get $3.25 million. The B.C. government said the money comes from deferred federal funds under the Canada-B.C. Immigration Agreement.
The NDP has criticized Virk and the Liberal government for helping the federal government dismantle ESL programs in post-secondary schools instead of fighting to protect them.
“The problem with the transition money is quite simple: The program that we have works,” NDP critic David Eby said last month.