Youth Futures Education Fund to distribute $600,000 to former youth-in-care

Former youth-in-care at UBC will once again have low-barrier access to provincial funds intended to help cover some of the additional costs of an education.

This year, the Youth Futures Education Fund (YFEF) will distribute $600,000 to post-secondary students across BC who by the age of 19 have aged out of foster care or certain supports from social workers, government programs or previous financial assistance. Fifty-six UBC students received funding in 2021, and it will be made available again to new and returning students throughout the year.

“Tuition cost is a huge educational cost, but it’s not 100 per cent of what you actually have to cover to be able to participate fully in post-secondary environments,” said Sabrina Materie, a UBC advisor to former youth in care.

Though the YFEF goes to students who already qualify for UBC’s Post Care Tuition Waiver, Materie said the support is meant to extend to everything from books, program fees and tutoring to rent, bills or even unexpected medical fees.

“It means a lot to students to be able to access these things without having to go further into debt, or trade off one necessity to cover a different necessity,” said Materie.

“It’s going to help you get access to things you would have otherwise had to stress over, or lose out on, or perhaps find funding elsewhere – and that’s not a guarantee,” said Nathaniel, who has been a recipient of the fund for all four years of his history degree at UBC.

For Nathaniel and students like him, the low-barrier benefits go beyond the financial, with compound effects on the emotional, social and academic lives of the fund’s recipients.

“YFEF has my back, I just need to focus on the future goal,” said Sim, a psychology student at Langara College who has dreamed of an eventual PhD from UBC since long before she aged out of care.

‘Aging out’ is an inevitability for youth in care, and if there is work to be done to further support vulnerable youth, Nathaniel insists that it’s through outreach and the expansion of systems like the YFEF.

“The hope is that a young person finds the resources, but the improvement could be the institutions outreaching back,” he said.

The BC government agrees with Nathaniel. Anne Kang, minister of advanced education and skills training, said it’s part of her mandate to broaden the provincial age limit for youth who qualify for tuition waivers – and therefore YFEF.

That expansion is a process which UBC has already taken on by independently eliminating any age requirements for Post Care Tuition Waivers.

Greater initiatives like the waiver and supplements such as the YFEF, Sabrina Materie said, enrich the university experience for everyone, not just its recipients.

“It’s a question of diversity over all. Welcoming these various experiences into a classroom environment, giving [former youth in care students] an equal opportunity to stay and to actually make that impact on UBC in return.”