While the BC government is still refusing to fund Adult Basic Education (ABE), the VIUSU has been making steady progress in gaining support from several city councils.

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Efforts to open the doors on Adult Basic Education remain strong.

ABE programs provide high school equivalent courses for citizens returning to school for retraining and upgrading, which include adult special education and basic literacy programs. ABE has been tuition free in BC since 2007, and more than 25 thousand British Columbians—about 800 at VIU—use this program each year. However, the 2015 provincial budget eliminated funding for the program, which allowed ABE institutions to make up for the shortfall by charging tuition. Fees for ABE classes are now similar to those of most regular university courses, at $320 per class.

With support from the BC Federation of Students, the VIUSU has been touring around city councils in the region asking them to endorse the Don’t Close the Doors on ABE campaign. The VIUSU did a presentation to the Duncan city council in December, from which it received a unanimous endorsement. In addition, on January 11, the VIUSU did a presentation to the Qualicum city council; this council has a policy to receive delegations and then review their decision on the following meeting, so the Students’ Union is awaiting feedback. On January 18, they presented to the Parksville city council, who also endorsed the campaign.

“I can say that when we do these presentations the response seems to be very positive,” said VIUSU Organizer-Advocacy representative Patrick Barbosa. “City councils are often the ones that work with people in our communities, and they seem to get that people need the opportunity to do this basic level of education so they can move on to find a meaningful role in the economy.”

Ministry of Education statistics show that between 2010 and 2014, there were  between 21 and 25 thousand adults taking courses in BC public and independent schools. For the 2014-2015 school year, with the changes coming into effect in January 2015, the number dropped to 17 thousand. While there has been a substantial drop in ABE enrollment at several of VIU’s sister institutions, Nanaimo’s campus has seen an increase. Barbosa suspects this finding in Nanaimo is related to the downturn in the oil industry. “I know a lot of folks in Nanaimo have been working in the fields, so they need other options of employment because they’re losing their jobs,” he said. “ABE is a great example that will help them ladder into other trades or academic programs.”

So far, the VIUSU has received positive responses from Duncan and Nanaimo’s chambers of commerce, and they have plans to continue with follow-ups. “We’re trying to show the government that there is a broad base of support in a whole diverse community of Canadians,” said Barbosa. “It’s not just students saying you should support these programs; it’s also the business community and human rights leaders. It’s an important issue that people get.”

Barbosa urges students to get involved, show support, contact their MLAs and the Ministry of Advanced Education, and generate conversation on the topic. “This cut by the BC government really only saves about $6.9 million, and our economy is somewhere near $2 billion,” he said. “And this is the way they are cutting? They ought to be embarrassed and ashamed.”

Visit dontclosethedoors.ca for more information, or to support the campaign.