Nova Scotia

NSCC covers tuition for former youth in foster care

The Nova Scotia Community College has become the second institution in the province to cover tuition for former youth in foster care.

College follows Mount Saint Vincent University, which announced similar program last fall

Students at NSCC can apply for one of five bursaries this term. (Robert Short/CBC)

The Nova Scotia Community College has become the second institution in the province to cover tuition for former youth in foster care.

Students at NSCC who've been in the care of the province can now apply to have their tuition and fees covered through the post-care free tuition program.

There are five spots available for the winter term with plans to expand the program this fall, said Jill Provoe, NSCC's senior adviser for educational equity.

"We've actually already had several applicants and it's just launched this week, so we're pretty excited about that," she told CBC Radio's Mainstreet on Friday. 

Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax announced a similar program last fall that's open to 10 students.

Jane Kovarikova grew up in the foster care system in Ontario and has been working with NSCC and MSVU, as well as other institutions, to launch the programs. 

"I think every single institution in the country needs to be responsible for these people who we've agreed to raise as children and to bring into adulthood, so my goal really is that every single college and university will offer a handful or more positions, whatever they can afford," said Kovarikova, the founder of Child Welfare Political Action Committee Canada.

Jane Kovarikova is a former Crown ward who is pushing for more access to post-secondary education for former foster children. (Rebecca Zandbergen/CBC News)

Kovarikova said some 60 per cent of youth in care end up dropping out of high school, like she did. They also often change schools, which can put them behind academically.

"I didn't believe I had an academic future," she said. "It was actually a community college that allowed me to apply as a mature student to give me access to post-secondary. I'm now a doctoral candidate at Western [University]."

Kovarikova said returning to school years later can be daunting, from filling out forms with parental information to covering tuition.

Nova Scotia Community College is now offering a program that covers up to 100 per cent of tuition and fees for former youth in care, regardless of their age. 11:43

That's why NSCC is working to support students through the application process, Provoe said. She added that discussions are taking place about specific supports for students in the Black and Indigenous communities.

"That is absolutely high on our radar and will be in place," she said. 

No age limit to apply

NSCC's bursary is open to people who were in the care of the Department of Community Services, including Mi'kmaw Family and Children's Services of Nova Scotia, for one year, which can be cumulative.

It's also open to people who accessed the province's youth services program for a minimum of one year.

Eligible students can be enrolled in full- or part-time programs. Like MSVU's program, there's no age limit.

"When your life is back on track and you're ready to go to access social mobility after a lifetime of cumulative disadvantages, it's there for you," Kovarikova said. 

The bursary will cover up to 100 per cent of students' tuition and fees, and is only open for students enrolled in their first post-secondary degree. 

Provoe said the pilot program this term is only the beginning.

"We don't know, to be quite honest, how many students we have who would be eligible, so we are actively looking for donors," she said.

With files from CBC's Mainstreet