Youth who grew up in child welfare system thriving at UWinnipeg
Photo: Elizabeth Oliver, UWinnipeg graduate and former youth in care
WINNIPEG, MB – The University of Winnipeg launched Manitoba’s first Youth In Care Tuition Waiver Program, announced one year ago, to ensure that youth who have grown up in the child welfare system can dream about and plan for an academic future regardless of socio-economic circumstances. UWinnipeg is pleased to report of the 25 students admitted to the program in September, five tried university and discovered that university is not for them at this time, one has now graduated, and 19 are in class and doing well.
Elizabeth Oliver is a 24 year old mother of two who obtained a BA in Criminal Justice from UWinnipeg in December 2012 and is now engaged in a six-month internship with the Manitoba Government’s Probation Services. She spent her teenage years in the child and family services system and says many youth in care feel overwhelmed when they turn 18 years old.
“There is no support system, especially financial, for youth in care once we turn 18, and thinking about loans and debt with no one to rely on can be really overwhelming, enough not to go on to post-secondary school,” says Oliver. “In my case I had high grades that allowed me to receive some scholarships, but not everyone is lucky enough to get those. Having a Tuition Waiver program really helps.” Oliver entered the Tuition Waiver program for her last semester at UWinnipeg which covered all her living expenses, books and supplies in addition to tuition.
Through its Community Learning mission, UWinnipeg has a deep commitment to addressing the needs of youth who are underrepresented in university classrooms. Children and youth in care face multiple barriers that keep them from pursuing post-secondary learning, including financial hurdles.
“By waiving tuition fees for these students, we break down a real and tangible barrier,” said Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, President and Vice-Chancellor, UWinnipeg. “Just as importantly, we are demonstrating that when this financial barrier is removed, children growing up in care have the same keen desire to achieve, learn and grow as any other child. We are saying to these youth that they matter, and they can thrive here.”
The Youth In Care Tuition Waiver program began at UWinnipeg and at the initial suggestion of Jay Rodgers. As a member of UWinnipeg’s Board of Regents and CEO of the Child and Family Services Authority, Rodgers felt more could be done to help youth in care when they turn 18 years old.
UWinnipeg had expected to support 10 students this initial year, in the pilot project stage of the program, but more than doubled that number to meet the demand as qualified students applied. There are more than 9,500 children and youth in care in Manitoba, the majorities are First Nations and Metis, and it is estimated that historically less than 5% ever pursued a post-secondary education.
The Youth In Care Tuition Waiver Program will now continue at UWinnipeg as a permanent program in collaboration with the Metis Child and Family Services Authority, the First Nations of Southern Manitoba Child and Family Services Authority, and the Child and Family Services Authority, which cover all additional living expenses for youth on extensions of care, including living expenses. The Province of Manitoba is also a strong partner, agreeing to support youth who are not on extensions of care, but were raised in care.
For Oliver, the impact of obtaining a university education goes beyond her. “My six year old daughter tells everyone her mom graduated from university. It sets a good example for my children, that they too can achieve whatever they want in life.”
Diane Poulin, Communications Officer, The University of Winnipeg
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