An announcement that permits public post-secondary institutions to charge students tuition for some English as a Second Language (ESL) courses means Western Canada's largest ESL provider could continue to run some of its recently defunded programs.
It isn't enough to save the whole program, however, which costs $11 million a year to run.
Four of five ESL departments at Vancouver Community College are scheduled to shut down at the end of this month after federal funding came to an end. Since 2010, the college has received provincial and federal funding for the departments through the Canada-BC Immigration Agreement.
The agreement ended last April, ending federal funding and forcing the college to rely on a small amount of money to keep the departments running until Dec. 17.
The departments offer a range of ESL level programs, from English for beginners, to pre-college and professional level English for students upgrading their education, wanting their foreign credentials recognized, or looking for a job in their field.
As of Jan. 1, the college can charge students up to $320 per course for a part-time workload and $1,600 for a full-time student per semester. Non-refundable grants will be offered for students who can't afford tuition.
A press release issued yesterday by the college's president, Peter Nunoda, stated the college hasn't decided which ESL courses will be saved. Since the departments' cancellations were announced this May, 27 ESL faculty have taken early retirement, while roughly 130 faculty will be laid off this month.
"We welcome this announcement," read Nunoda's statement. "It will allow us to retain some of our staff to provide much needed higher level ESL programming in January 2015."
A decision on the courses will be announced next week.
Katie Hyslop is The Tyee's education and youth reporter.