Thursday July 16, 2020 ~ VICTORIA BC
by Mary Brooke, Editor ~ West Shore Voice News
Applications for StudentAid BC (student financial assistance) are open for students studying in post-secondary programs between Aug. 1, 2020, and July 31, 2021.
The up-front grant, along with new funding for students with disabilities, expanded open education resources and online support through BCcampus, will open doors for students to return to school and earn the college or university credential of their choice.
The B.C. Access Grant is the first new investment in post-secondary student grants in 15 years.
Grant funding can be used toward tuition costs, but can also be used for basic living expenses, such as rent, groceries or transit.
Also available to part-time and short programs:
This is the first time that provincial grants will be available to part-time students and students in programs fewer than two years, as well as in a much broader range of programs.
Government commitment to post-secondary:
“Whether you’re a high school grad, a current student or are returning for new skills and training, these new government supports mean the doors are wide open for you to get a post-secondary credential and pursue your dreams,” said Melanie Mark, Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training July 15 in a news teleconference.
“Our government is absolutely committed to making life more affordable for all British Columbians. Our investments in post-secondary education empowers students and helps communities get back on their feet and be part of B.C.’s economic recovery.”
StudentAid BC applicants automatically assessed by BC Access Grant:
Every student who applies for StudentAid BC will now be automatically assessed for the new B.C. Access Grant. Announced in Budget 2020, the B.C. Access Grant will break down barriers and enable over 40,000 low- and middle-income students, or about twice as many students as supported under previous grants, to access more affordable public post-secondary education. These students will receive up to $4,000 a year to help with the up-front cost of programs leading to a certificate, diploma or degree.
Mental health supports on campus:
Mark also announced new investments totalling $2.175 million to better support post-secondary students and faculty. The funding includes $1.5 million to be shared by 20 public post-secondary institutions throughout B.C. and will be used to develop or build upon supports for students with cognitive, mental health or physical disabilities to create the conditions they need to succeed.
Online resources under development:
Government is also providing $275,000 to BCcampus to develop online resources and tools for students, staff and faculty to help them navigate a range of topics on well-being, which are needed now more than ever. Resources include a website, videos and webinars on topics such as adapting to online learning, building resilience, stress management and understanding financial supports.
BCcampus began running the webinars in April 2020. They will run regularly into 2021, with dedicated sessions planned for students, faculty and staff. Sessions are recorded, transcribed and hosted on the BCcampus website.
New Open Education Resources this fall:
Also this fall, students and faculty at public post-secondary institutions throughout B.C. will benefit from new Open Educational Resources (OER) being created and adapted. Over 310 textbooks, supplementary manuals and guides are available free through B.C.’s Open Textbook collection, which covers a wide range of subjects. These free materials have been a call to action from students and are being developed as part of government’s single largest investment ever in OER: $3 million announced in April 2019.
The Open Textbook Project is managed on government’s behalf by BCcampus. Over 675 British Columbia faculty members at 40 public and private post-secondary institutions are participating in the open textbook initiative.
“Especially in this time of COVID-19, tuition fees and the high cost of textbooks create barriers for students to be successful,” said Fillette Umulisa, Lansdowne campus executive, Camosun College Student Society. “The financial grants and open education resources that the B.C. government has announced today are welcome news to post-secondary students. This support is critical to providing easier access to the necessary courses and programs students require to get their credentials, achieve their career goals and contribute positively to our economy and society.”
Training for the new work sector:
B.C.’s Labour Market Outlook predicts over the next 10 years, 861,000 jobs will need to be filled. These range from trades, technology and tourism to health care, management and business. Some level of post-secondary education or training will be required for about 80% of those job openings.
Increasing education affordability:
Increasing the affordability of post-secondary education is a shared priority between government, the BC Green Party caucus and independent MLA Andrew Weaver, and is part of the Confidence and Supply Agreement.
Sherri Bell, president of Camosun College and board chair of BC Colleges said yesterday that post-secondary education is critical to helping safely restart B.C.’s economy. “The BC Access Grant is welcome news right now for students at Camosun and all colleges, particularly since many students are studying for certificates, diplomas and part time. Now is an excellent time for students to take their first steps in post-secondary education or to upgrade their technical skills, whether online or on campus, in a safe way, and Camosun College is ready.”
The Province is further investing $400,000 through BCcampus to create fully developed OER courses and support services for a broad range of the most popular courses. This work will better support educators with an expanded choice of free textbooks and more supports for online course delivery, benefiting both faculty and students. As more subjects are identified, additional OER will be developed.
BCcampus is a government-funded organization with the primary focus of supporting B.C.’s post-secondary system in the areas of teaching and learning, open education and digital learning.
BCcampus is working with expert stakeholders, students, faculty at B.C.’s public post-secondary institutions to develop topics and issues that will be covered in future webinars as part of mental health supports for students, faculty and staff.
Mary Burgess, executive director, BCcampus was glad for government support. “The BC Post-Secondary System Collaboration on Open Online Courses is a positive sign of our ability, as a system, to think holistically about the open resources we have. It’s an opportunity to pool our talents with the open-focused educators across the province to collaborate on curriculum development and build on the open ecosystem we’ve been working so hard on for so many years.”
Tanysha Klassen, chairperson, BC Federation of Students addressed student need. “Now more than ever students and their families need help to afford the education they need to enter the workforce. The BC Access Grant will help students access not only four-year programs, but certificate and diploma programs that are key for the health of our economy.”
For more information on the BC Student Access Grant, visit: https://studentaidbc.ca/news/grants-scholarships/new-bc-access-grant
Browse open education resources: https://open.bccampus.ca/
BCcampus’ Open Online Courses Project call for proposal, visit: