NBCC offers free tuition for people who spent time in foster care
The Former Youth in Care Bursary Program will be available to 10 NBCC students in September
New Brunswickers who spent at least one year in foster care can now apply for free tuition at the New Brunswick Community College.
The Former Youth in Care Bursary Program will be available to 10 NBCC students beginning in September, and those accepted will have all tuition and fees covered for the academic year.
Zoë Bourgeois, a member of the National Council of Youth in Care Advocates, says this program is a "huge" step for the province.
"It's just a great example that youth in care's future and their lives matter, they recognize that it's important, that it's needed," said Bourgeois.
"Especially financially, it's a huge burden on children in youth care when they leave the system and when they don't get the financial support for education. This just relieves a huge barrier to many."
Bourgeois said the number of spots open for these students is limiting, as typically 50 youth leave the New Brunswick foster care system each year seeking financial support.
That doesn't include those who left the system years ago and never got the opportunity for a post-secondary education.
She said, regardless, it's still a move that deserves to be celebrated.
Mary Ellen Kingston-Ritchie, NBCC's director of student development, says the college was approached by the Child Welfare Political Action Committee of Canada to participate in the program currently offered at 18 post-secondary schools in Canada.
NBCC is the only post-secondary institution in New Brunswick participating, and one of just five in Atlantic Canada.
"I'm really excited about this program. Our goal is for participants to be better off socio-economically … so they can get that job that they thought was always a little out of reach," said Kingston-Ritchie.
"I want to do this well for the people who come forward."
Kingston-Ritchie said the bursary amount will be a maximum of $5,000 per student, which is the cost of a full-time program at the college.
NBCC funds the bursary program with support from donors.
Where the program started
Jane Kovarikova, founder and CEO of Child Welfare PAC, said she grew up in foster care from the age of six and left the system to live on her own at 16.
"I dropped out of high school, like so many children that grow up in the care system do as well. After that, there's very few opportunities for you to have social mobility. You are very under resourced," she said.
She got her academic start at a Georgian College in Ontario, which accepted her as a mature student. Kovarikova now has two degrees and is a PhD candidate at Western University.
"I know how tough life can be when you're looking into your future and you want better for yourself," Kovarikova said
"I know how life-changing the academic path can be, and I'm so grateful to New Brunswick Community College for making that more possible for the youth that are raised in the system in New Brunswick."
Kovarikova said she would have been shut out of any academic opportunities, had she not been accepted by a college similar to NBCC.
She said for every 1000 youth in foster care in Canada, about 400 will drop out of high school. Out of those, only about eight will eventually seek post-secondary education.