The University of Victoria is the latest school to offer free tuition for ex-foster kids at the urging of Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond.
Following the lead of Vancouver Island University, UVic announced Monday that former children in care will be eligible for a new award that will cover the tuition costs of a four-year undergraduate degree.
The award, worth about $20,000, will be given to a maximum of five eligible students in the coming academic year.
The deadline for applications is June 30.
If more than five eligible students apply, UVic will give the award to those with the highest admission average.
Students who transfer to UVic from another university or college to finish their degree will also be eligible.
UVic began work on the two-year pilot project after Turpel-Lafond challenged post-secondary schools last year to offer free tuition for former children in care.
“These are students who have had a lot of hurdles, and so we want to make sure that they have the opportunity to venture into post-secondary and have the resources to do so,” said Lori Nolt, director of student awards and financial aid.
Vancouver Island University was the first to offer tuition waivers last fall. The school said Monday that 17 students took advantage of the program in the 2013-14 year.
The University of B.C. plans to begin offering tuition waivers for former children in care this fall.
Turpel-Lafond said she was encouraged and pleased by UVic’s announcement, but concerned that the five-student limit will exclude deserving young people.
“The difficult financial times we’re in has obviously made them confine this program a bit more than some of the other post-secondary institutions,” she said. “I hope the terms don’t dissuade anyone.”
She said a promising student may lack the marks necessary to get into university, in part, because they were moved 17 times while in foster care.
“I know the academic gatekeeping is really important to our post-secondary institutions,” she said.
“But I’d like that to be balanced with a gate that isn’t opened such a narrow crack that very few people will ever get through.”
Turpel-Lafond said she’s aware of more than five former children in care that would like to enrol at UVic. “I think they’re going to fill that pretty fast,” she said.
“It does really speak to the fact that I do need the private sector and government to step up here to make sure that there isn’t someone that’s turned away.”
In January, Coast Capital Savings announced a $200,000 fund to help former foster children cover rent, transportation, books, childcare and other non-tuition costs while getting a post-secondary education.