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McMaster offers a chance at higher education for former Crown Wards

 

McMaster offers a chance at higher education for former Crown Wards

John Best

McMaster University is eliminating tuition fees for current and former foster children who are working toward an undergraduate or graduate degree.

The initiative, announced in collaboration with the Child Welfare Political Action Committee Canada (Child Welfare PAC), recognizes that current and former foster children are some of the most vulnerable in society.

McMaster will be making places available for up to 20 students from these groups and accepting applications regardless of the age of applicants if they meet eligibility requirements.

“McMaster understands that education levels the playing field,” said Jane Kovarikova, founder of the Child Welfare PAC, which advocates for improving post-secondary access for former foster kids. “People raised in foster care are uniquely vulnerable and have not had a fair chance in life.”

Foster kids are typically evicted from care at age 18, making hardship all too common. It can take years to achieve stability, so tuition support without arbitrary age limits further reduces barriers allowing former foster kids the opportunity to improve their lives.

“Increasing learning opportunities and removing barriers to education for students is core to McMaster’s Access Strategy,” says David Farrar, McMaster President and Vice-Chancellor. “We are very pleased to launch this program at McMaster. It will not only help to remove financial barriers for Crown Ward students but will enrich our campus by introducing new and diverse voices to our community.”

McMaster Access Strategy

This effort supports McMaster’s Access Strategy, launched in 2019, which assists students from a variety of underrepresented groups in accessing university education. McMaster has developed programs and supports to help academically qualified students from underrepresented groups in Hamilton and surrounding communities to access university education at the undergraduate level.

The Child Welfare PAC advocates for barrier-free post-secondary access for those raised in care. Over the last year, Child Welfare PAC has helped facilitate similar initiatives in Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland. The Ontario goal is that all 45 postsecondary schools will eventually join the movement to ensure those raised in care have bright futures.

Foster Care in Ontario

Ontario Foster Care Quick Facts:

•             There are 12,000 children in state care in Ontario.

•             Each year, about 1,000 exit the system or rather “age-out” at 18 years old.

•             About 60% of foster youth drop-out of high school.

•             If studies bear out, only 80 of 400 qualified foster youth pursue higher education each year.

•             From age 18 to 21, youth receive an allowance of approximately $875/month.

•             At age 21, foster youth are expected to be fully independent, credentialed, and career-ready for life as contributing members of society – unrealistic expectations.

•             Restrictive tuition waivers are unlikely to be effective.

•             An estimated 100,000+ former Crown Wards are in Ontario.

Any current or former Canada Crown Ward studying towards a first degree or graduate degree who is academically qualified will be eligible. Up to 20 places will be made available.

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