Looming cuts to English language training programs hurt BC students

[by Cindy Oliver, FPSE President; reprinted]

On Dec 16, 2013, FPSE and the B.C. division of the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) held a press conference at the Vancouver Community College’s downtown Vancouver campus to announce plans to launch a province-wide campaign to pressure the federal and provincial governments to protect the funding arrangement that sees close to $20 million in federal funding flow through B.C.’s Ministry of Advanced Education to support a range of ELT programs in BC institutions.

English Language Training (ELT) programs play an increasingly critical role in B.C.’s post-secondary institutions as the diversity and complexity of our student population changes and, with it, the need to address those changes with programs that strengthen language proficiency. Although post-secondary education is primarily a provincial responsibility, the federal government plays a crucial role in the funding of ELT programs across B.C. And it’s the looming cuts to the federal government’s contribution to those programs that has united student organizations and our Federation to pressure governments to take a different approach.

The cuts to ESL funding are a step backwards. They will hurt students, the very people that B.C. and Canada need to support and encourage. Our campaign will focus on their stories and highlight the urgent need to keep ELT funding in place. Working together with allies and the broader community, we are confident we can make a difference.

What does this mean to EAP at Cap U?
Maggie Reagh, Coordinator, English for Academic Purposes

  • This is not going to affect tuition-free ESL in the spring term. It will begin in summer 2014.
  • EAP department suspects that their base funding of 13.5 sections will not continue. It was added because of tuition-free ESL two years ago, and it is unlikely that given the current cut in funding that it will continue in future budgets.
  • The net result, however, is that Cap U and other post-secondary institution are receiving even less funding than prior to tuition-free ESL. Our grant is being cut by $565, 000 based on us serving 3.3% of B.C.’s ESL students; $17 million is the total grant given to B.C. for ESL (17 institutions) and 3.3% of that is approximately $565,000. Each institution’s grant has been cut based on the percentage of ESL students served in BC.
  • The government may change the tuition policy to allow institutions to charge tuition at cost recovery levels, but we don’t know yet if this will happen.
  • We do not know the status of our recent Canadian Immigration Commission (CIC) application or how it will work with the ESL Pathways project that is being developed at VCC with Catherine Ostler. This new funding is supposed to help off-set the end of tuition-free ESL, but it has not yet been confirmed.