Sudbury

Laurentian University's tuition exemption program aims to help foster kids earn their degree

Sudbury’s Laurentian University has re-established its tuition exemption program for current and former youth under care of the Children’s Aid Society. 

Age restrictions lifted on assistance aimed at Crown wards

Jane Kovarikova, once a ward of the Crown, is completing her doctorate at Western University. (Screenshot from documentary Next of Kin )
Paying for post-secondary education can be challenging. The tuition can add up to tens of thousands of dollars. That's why a lot of students seek out loans, scholarships, or grants. While others work while also going to college or university. If the youth is in extended society care or what is known as Crown Wards in Ontario, finding that tuition money can be even more difficult. Laurentian University has brought back a tuition exemption program for them. Jane Kovarikova is an LU graduate and a former youth-in-care. She was the driving force behind the idea to give these kids a fresh start. 7:59

Sudbury's Laurentian University has re-established its tuition exemption program for current and former youth under care of the Children's Aid Society. 

The program had been in place in 2012, but this time around there are a few tweaks. There will no longer be an age requirement on the assistance, meaning mature students can apply for the exemption.

Jane Kovarikova, once a Crown ward, first championed the program. She left care when she was 16, a couple of years younger than most children who leave the system. 

"You're kind of expected to be fully credentialed and career-ready," she said. "So you can see how the expectations are wildly out of proportion with what most youth experience in their family."

She said the lack of resources foster kids have to draw on makes university a far-off dream for many.

"It's even more complicated because there are literally no resources and there's no Christmas basket, there's no going home on the holidays," she said. 

"And there's also pressures...you're on your own now so you better be able to pay your bills and if you can't then you have a real problem, because no one's going to bail you out."

Kovarikova cites a statistic that more than 60 per cent of foster kids do not complete high school, let alone attempt post-secondary education.

But Laurentian's program should help other students ease into the pressure-filled university atmosphere.

"They will bend over backwards to make sure that you can complete the program," she said. 

"There's counselling departments," she said. "they can help you learn how to study. If some kind of accommodations are necessary, they will accommodate you to help you get through."

"So you're not alone if you embark on that journey," she added. "You know it's going to feel intimidating. But for you and your future, it's literally the best thing you can do."

Kovarikova said kids who grew up in the child care system have one quality going for them.

"It does require a lot of grit to get through four years of university for anybody," she said. "And foster kids have that in spades." 

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