Post-secondary schools in northern Ontario are leading the way in funding the tuition of Crown wards.

Last year, five of the eleven colleges or universities that participated in the program — which sees the schools and the province equally split the costs — were from northern Ontario.

About 200 Crown wards received tuition money last year. Students are eligible for up to $6,000 a year for four years.

Participating in the program made sense for Algoma University.

"It seemed to fit with our mandate that we'd do everything we could to help these students [who] — once they get to a certain point — have no support system," Kevin Hemsworth, Algoma’s director of communications said.

'They are quite pleased'

A spokesperson with the Children's Aid Society in Sault Ste Marie said she would like to see more support for students struggling in grade school and high school. Provincial statistics show only 44 per cent of Crown wards actually graduate with a high school diploma, compared to an 82 percent average for the province.

"How they became crown wards — and the challenges this brings for them — presents challenges in their education," Larissa Richmond said.

Sault College, Sudbury's Laurentian University and College Boreal, and North Bay's Canadore College are among the other schools that gave money to Crown wards.

The program is known as the "100% Tuition Aid for Youth Leaving Care" program.

Laurentian University gave a total of $26,000 to 10 Crown wards last year.

"A hundred per cent of their tuition fees are being taken care of, free of charge, non repayable, and they are quite pleased," said Diane Beauparlant, manager with the student awards department.

More schools across the province have agreed to participate next year.