08/15/2013 02:25 EDT | Updated 10/15/2013 05:12 EDT

Free Tuition At Vancouver Island University Offered To Youth In Care


NANAIMO, B.C. - A university on Vancouver Island has announced a program to waive tuition for children who have grown up in government care, many of whom are aboriginal and living below the poverty line.

Vancouver Island University says the program, which starts this September as a pilot project, was inspired by a proposal from the province's children's watchdog.

Children's representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond released a report earlier this year that examined a range of issues facing children in care, and among her recommendations was a call for increased funding and outreach to encourage enrolment in post-secondary education.

The school says in a news release that students applying for the waiver must turn 18 either before or during the academic year, demonstrate financial need and be recommended by a child and family services agency.

The news release says there are more than 8,000 youth in government care in B.C., including more than 900 on Vancouver Island, and about two thirds of them are aboriginal.

Bill Yoachim, who works for a First Nations family services agency and is on the university's board of governors, says the program will bring positive change for graduates of the province's care system.

Vancouver Island University has campuses in Nanaimo, Duncan, Powell River and Parksville, and teaches 18,000 full- and part-time students.

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