VIU sees increase in adult basic education students

Vancouver Island University has seen an upswing in adult basic education at its Cowichan campus this term.

Vancouver Island University has seen an upswing in adult basic education at its Cowichan campus this term.

Financial aid available through the campus has helped 117 students and, in addition, Galaxy Motors’s scholarship program has meant the waiving of application fees for 27 more students, VIU said in a press release.

It’s all good, according to student Brianna Thorne.

She has always wanted to be a teacher, but, like a lot of other adults, found that life got in the way for a while.

Thorne put her lifelong dream on the backburner while she raised her daughter. But now that her daughter is in Grade 11, the 37-year-old has decided to return to VIU’s Cowichan campus to do some upgrading in preparation to enter the Bachelor of Education program next fall.

She’s working on making her dream come true and she’s grateful for the help she’s received.

Thanks to a donation from Galaxy Motors to an adult basic education emergency fund, her application fee to VIU Cowichan was waived, and the financial aid department helped her successfully apply for the provincial government’s Adult Upgrading Grant, which has given her enough money to cover tuition costs and books.

“There’s no way I could have taken the courses I need to take without that assistance,” Thorne said. “It’s definitely opened a ton of doors for me. I’m working really hard and excited to be here — I think having some life experience and knowing how crappy things can be when you’re not educated drives me. Up until now, I didn’t find the focus to balance it all.”

Adults who see the value of education from the aspect of experience in the working world are often really motivated students, and with the school district closing its adult education program, the focus has switched to VIU for those hopefuls.

According to June Karstad, VIU Cowichan’s office manager and financial aid assistant, the number of students applying for financial aid this fall has skyrocketed, with much of that demand coming from students taking adult basic education courses.

“I helped 117 students get approved for the Adult Upgrading Grant so far this semester, which is three times as many as last semester,” she said.

While the course costs can be covered through the Adult Upgrading Grant, Karstad explained that staff were concerned that the application fee to become a VIU student might hold some people back from taking courses.

VIU Cowichan staff hosted a fundraiser in May that raised money to cover about 10 application fees, and, soon after, Galaxy Motors stepped forward.

“When we were talking to students, it became obvious to us that many of them couldn’t afford the $38.50 application fee; for them, it came down to a choice between buying groceries that week and applying to come to school,” Karstad said. “We wanted to help them come back to school and continue their education. We didn’t want that application fee to be the barrier so we are very grateful to Galaxy Motors for their support.”

Through its Galaxy Foundation group of scholarships for Vancouver Island youth, the car dealer is providing $2,000 annually for an ABE emergency fund, which has been used to waive the application fee for new students, as well as an additional $1,000 award for an ABE student in Cowichan, $1,000 for a culinary student in Cowichan, and four $1,000 awards for students in the automotive technician program at the Nanaimo campus.

Kevin McCaw, general sales manager for Galaxy Motors locations in Duncan and Nanaimo, explained that the awards are part of his company’s foundation: a network of scholarships supporting youth across the Island.

“At Galaxy Motors, we are continually searching for meaningful ways to support local community initiatives,” he said. “We can think of no finer way to celebrate today’s motivated youths than by rewarding them with the opportunity to seek higher education which, ultimately, creates a stronger, more vibrant, Vancouver Island for all of us.”

So, that has meant help for 27 students. As of October, the university decided to eliminate the application fee for ABE students at all campuses.

Karstad says moving forward, the Galaxy Motors ABE Emergency Fund will be used to help those students who don’t qualify for the Adult Upgrading Grant for various reasons but still need some help to return to school.