Rather than charging a fee for students looking to upgrade their marks, the Surrey School District will no longer be offering courses to graduated adults.
The move comes after the provincial government cut funding to school districts for programs catering to adults who have already received their high school diploma. Until now, those who had graduated – not just in Canada but anywhere in the world – were able to attend district-run learning centres to upgrade free of charge. The province announced the changes in December and they are to take effect May 1.
Some school districts, such as Delta and Vancouver, have opted to continue offering the adult upgrading courses, for a fee of $550 per course.
Surrey Trustee Laurae McNally said the district would have had to charge close to $600 per course to continue to serve graduated adults.
"The fee was, what we thought, too much for what the colleges could do it for," she said.
"I'm really sad to see it change because those students… when they actually got their diplomas and got on with their lives… were probably the strongest advocates for the Surrey School District. They never forgot the help they got from us."
Adult education instructor Aaron Douglas told The Leader he felt the provincial funding cuts were particularly unfair for immigrants, whose high school diplomas aren't generally recognized by Canadian colleges and universities.
Ayesha Rahimyar, 32, is one of those students, having graduated in Pakistan 16 years ago. As a single mom, she wants to get a higher education so she can better support her young family and has been taking classes at Invergarry Adult Education Centre. Already barely able to make ends meet each month, she simply can't afford to pay tuition.
"It's really stressful," she says. "If I can't get an education… what is the hope for the next generation?"
In cutting the adult education funding to school districts, the province announced it will offer $7.5 million in grants to low-income adult students to help with tuition at colleges and universities.
Other existing adult education courses will continue to be offered by the Surrey School District, just not for students who've already graduated.
While the adult education sites at Queen Elizabeth Secondary (King George Boulevard and 94 Avenue) and Invergarry (88 Avenue and 127 Street) will remain in operation, the Newton Adult Education Centre (at Princess Margaret Secondary on 72 Avenue at 128 Street) will be closed.
McNally said it's too early to say exactly how staff will be affected, but acknowledged some instructors will have to be "absorbed" into other areas.
There are about 4,000 full- and part-time adult education students in Surrey, about a third of whom are affected by the funding change.
The government estimates it will save $9 million per year as a result of the cut.