College of the Rockies

Last tuition-free for adult upgrading program

Starting in January 2016, students looking to upgrade courses will now have to apply for grants, as the tuition-free model is being replaced

School is back in session and for some adult students, this is the last semester they will be able to attend upgrading courses tuition-free.

Last year, the Ministry of Advanced Education gave institutions the option to start charging tuition as of January 1, 2015, but the College of the Rockies decided to implement that policy for January 2016.

Since 2008, adult upgrading was offered tuition-free at the college, where students were responsible for additional costs, including books and supplies.

Kevin Szol, department head of the adult upgrading program at the college, said since the tuition-free program came into play, “hundreds if not thousands” of adults have taken advantage of the program.

While Szol was unable to provide details of how many of those students successfully completed the program, he did say the students who went through the upgrading programs have done well for themselves.

“I do know that our adult upgrading students have done very well in progressing through to other programs of training.”

The alternative to the tuition-free model the provincial government has introduced now offers grants students can apply for, and if they meet the proper criteria, they are eligible for part or all of their tuition to be covered, along with other expenses associated with going to school.

“Now what this has done is, instead of the government just giving the colleges some money to be able to deliver adult upgrading what they’ve done is they’ve taken that money and they’ve put it into these grants,” Szol said.

This year, the college received one-time money from the government to help with the transition of moving to a different tuition model, he said.

“But we are actually subsidizing it ourselves. That’s something that we can’t continue to do because it’s not viable – so at the end of the day, tuition fees are an eventuality.”

Szol said that for those who need the program, he doesn’t believe the grant model will deter students, but did say he believes the tuition-free model encouraged a lot of students to take advantage of the program.

“Personally I believe that because it’s been tuition-free to the student up front – it’s always been paid by the government in one way or another – but because of the tuition model the way it was, I sincerely believe that it was easier for students to come to school.”

Andrew Wilkinson, minister of advanced education for the province, said there is an extensive grant program available for eligible students that cover between half and all of the costs, including tuition, books, supplies and in some cases, childcare.

“They get complete coverage for tuition and fees and associated costs if their individual income is below $23,600, and up to $26,000 they get 50 per cent coverage,” he told The Free Press, adding a student with a family of three with a household income of up to $36,200 can also apply for full coverage (including daycare) and for incomes above that up to $40,000 the student can receive a grant that covers half of the costs.

The minister said a reason to change to the grant structure is to ensure students of low-income households have access to the programs at no charge and said when institutions have a free program, “people will come and go from the program”.

“When they’re paying a small amount of tuition and when they’re above the income threshold, they’re more inclined to complete the course,” he said, adding he said, adding free programs have higher dropout rates. “That’s always the case with free programs. It’s the case in European universities it’s the case with every free program.”

The upgrading program is for those who have already completed high school who want to upgrade their grades, he said.

“Anyone who has not completed high school can get this for free regardless of their income in the K-12 system.”

For more information about upgrading programs or to find out about the grant application process, visit


Just Posted

Fernie misses mark for Hockeyville final four

Residents of Fernie were surprised Saturday night, when the final four communities… Continue reading

Fernie local apprehended after break and enter

An eagle-eyed resident has helped Elk Valley police nab an alleged burgler.… Continue reading

Former Riders coach reflects

Mohr looking for new opportunities after contract ends

Athletes ready for world stage

Three Fernie athletes to compete in the world’s biggest junior freeride competition.

Hydro prices to surge

Elk Valley businesses brace for 3 per cent Hydro rate increase.

Ottawa proposes restricted pot labels, packages

Packaging will include red stop sign with marijuana leaf and ‘THC’

B.C. Scientists witness first-ever documented killer whale infanticide

“It’s horrifying and fascinating at the same time.”

Okanagan Falls winery showing international photo project

Liquidity Wines will be sole Canadian show of National Geographic’s Photo Ark

Lawyer for one suspect in beating of man with autism says he’s not guilty

Ronjot Singh Dhami will turn himself in, lawyer said

Liberals awarded $100,000 contract to man at centre of Facebook data controversy

Christopher Wylie says his voter-profiling company collected private information from 50 million Facebook users

Facebook’s Zuckerberg admits mistakes in privacy scandal

Zuckerberg admits to privacy scandal involving a Trump-connected data-mining firm, but no apology

UPDATE: Former B.C. city councillor sentenced nine months for sexual assault

Dave Murray, convicted this past fall, hired a private investigator to intrude on the victim’s life.

Online threat to U.S. high school traced to Canadian teen

A 14-year-old girl has been charged in connection with an online threat against a high school

Vaping device overheats, burns down home on Vancouver Island

Nanaimo Fire Rescue says units could cause fires in other homes and even aircraft

Most Read