Price hike stymies Kwantlen student

A Langley student is one of thousands across B.C. caught up in a sudden cut to the funding for post-secondary English as a second language education.

Karen de la O Frazer is a landed immigrant who moved to Canada seven years ago.

She’s been working part time jobs, mostly for minimum wage, to help out with her household bills. Now she’s looking at getting a second part time job as she’s faced with a $2,600 tuition bill to continue upgrading her English language skills at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

“It’s pretty frustrating,” she said.

She noted that at least she has support from her family, but worries about other students who won’t be able to take the classes at all.

“I really appreciate that Canada opened its doors for me as a new immigrant,” said de la O Frazer, but said the funding cuts leave her feeling trapped.

Getting a better job almost always requires the ability to study in English, she noted. Holding down a job or two while taking daily courses is difficult.

She found out about the increase in cost when she went to sign up for two summer courses with her mother in-law Shelagh Brennan.

Last time the fees were around $250 per class. This time they were $1,300 per course for the two courses, which run five days a week, three hours a day.

“This has made a terrible impact on her,” said Brennan.

ESL education was once subsidized through a federal program administered by the provinces.

Federal funding was cut off two years ago, but the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education pledged $17 million in one-time funding for the 2014/15 school year. That money recently ran out, meaning that the summer courses de la O Frazer was applying for are no longer funded.

A Kwantlen representative said the university is working to develop new options to allow KPU to continue providing ESL programs, and looking at alternative means of funding for them.

De la O Frazer has a university degree from her native Mexico in psychology and education, but to continue further university studies in Canada, she needs to take more English language training.

She is considering studying design, but her dream job would be helping other new immigrants to Canada.

– With files from the Vancouver Sun.

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