Wab Kinew pledges free tuition for kids aging out of care system

The NDP leadership hopeful says if he becomes premier some day, kids aging out of the child-care system will see free tuition, books and living expenses to go to university.

NDP leadership hopeful says systemic barriers prevent many from attending university

Wab Kinew said kids who are ageing out of the child welfare system could see free university tuition if he becomes premier. (Remi Authier/CBC)

If MLA Wab Kinew becomes premier, kids in the child welfare system could see their tuition and books for university covered by the province.

The NDP leadership hopeful made the pledge on Wednesday after describing his involvement in a similar program while working for the University of Winnipeg.

"What that program did is fully cover the cost of tuition and books for kids aging out of the child welfare system," Kinew said. The program, which covered the cost of living for some, was expanded to the province's other universities. 

"One of the issues with the program that I always had was we always had to privately fund-raise the money," Kinew said. "That's still the case to this day."

Teens aging out of the child care system face barriers to higher education, he said.

"These are young people who have the perspicacity, the smarts, the work ethic, the intelligence necessary to succeed, but there are real and systemic barriers in their way too often."

Kinew said many of the young adults admitted to the University of Winnipeg under the private program were high achievers: "They have the will, they just need the way."

Kinew said the NDP would work with local businesses to hire program graduates and help pay their salaries for the first three months. They would also launch a task force to figure out how best to help graduates find their first job.

Kinew said the program would cost about $2 million.

Kinew is running for the leadership of the Manitoba NDP against former MLA Steve Ashton. The leadership convention will be held on Sept. 16 at the RBC Convention Centre.