Federal government takes over ESL programs in B.C.

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The federal government will take over administration of ESL programs in B.C. starting April 1. Langara College will be receiving $485,000 from the provincial government to prepare for the transition.

Current system will change starting April 1

Previously, under the Canada-British Columbia Immigration Agreement, the province distributed funds provided by the federal government to public post-secondary institutions to provide students who are permanent residents or Canadian citizens with language instruction free of charge. Last year, the province received $17 million in ESL funding.

The agreement will officially end on April 1, leaving Citizenship and Immigration Canada to manage ESL programs directly.

The province will be distributing a one-time total of $10.5 million to the 17 post-secondary schools most affected by the cancelled agreement, including Langara, according to a press release issued by the Ministry of Advanced Education.

Will LEAP be affected?

Langara provides ESL education to domestic and international students through its Langara English for Academic Purposes program, which hosts s about 3,000 students annually in six sessions, each lasting seven weeks. The current session, which began on Feb. 26, will not be affected by the transition.

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Sandra Johansen, program coordinator for LEAP.

Roughly 25 per cent of the students in the program are domestic students, according to program coordinator Sandra Johansen.

Since the majority of LEAP students are international students, enrollment figures should stay consistent, Johansen said. But she isn’t sure how the funds from the province will be used yet.

Contracts with non-profits to facilitate

The NDP critic for advanced education, David Eby, issued a press release last December criticizing the Liberals, claiming they “have failed to explain their plan to keep their promise to offer free ESL courses to domestic students.”

The federal government will fund ESL programs directly through contracts being negotiated with non-profit organizations and select few public post-secondary institutions, according to the ministry. However, Citizenship and Immigration Canada has not yet announced any details on future plans.

Reported by Edmond Lu

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