“My teenage life was full of grief and very trying times,” says Justin Scott. “I struggled most of my life with addictions and a broken family.” Early in his life, Justin experimented with drugs to cope with turmoil in his home life. By the time he was in high school, he was on a path that would put him through a decade of “chaos and despair.”
At 25, he hit rock bottom and decided to get the help he needed. He desperately wanted to make his life better. He discovered a passion for helping others and applied for a nursing program at a private college.
Justin was thrilled when he was accepted, but the hefty price tag on the meant that he had to get a loan. The bank turned him away, and Justin couldn’t start school. The setback made “the itch for old habits start again as I felt I had no hopes for a better future... I had just come out of addiction, a success unto itself but I still felt hopeless and trapped in a life I felt I could not better,” he remembers.
Committed to getting his education, Justin applied for the Health Care Assistant program at Camosun College. He was accepted but a lengthy wait list meant he had to put his life on hold for almost a year. He did minimum wage jobs and shift work to make ends meet while living with his mom.
Finally, in February 2011, he began the six-month course at Camosun College, learning how to heal others. And in the process, Justin says, “I began truly healing myself.”
Justin was among hundreds of thousands of British Columbians who need post-secondary education to take their next step in life, but face barriers because the system is massively underfunded. In the last 15 years, per-student funding in BC has gone down 20%, and tuition fees have increased by 400%.
To get post-secondary education back on track, the BC government needs to invest an additional $100 million into the system. This new investment would increase choices for students, and ensure students graduate with the critical thinking and problem-solving skills they need to succeed in today’s job market.
According to a paper by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, post-secondary graduates contribute over $100,000 more to the public treasury over their working careers than do people with only a high school diploma. What they give back to the province far exceeds the government’s investment.
According to Richard Schaeffer of the BCGEU, “Taxpayers receive $3.80 return for every dollar invested in BC colleges and universities. Education is an investment that pays dividends to our economy.” Society, as a whole, benefits when people can attend university and college.
In the summer of 2011, Justin Scott graduated with honours from Camosun College. By the end of the following year, he was earning five times what he made in his minimum wage retail job. “I finally felt happy, I finally felt successful,” he says.
“Without higher education, I would still probably be an addict, or even worse yet, most likely dead... as tuition rises and the barriers to education continue to grow, others like me may not have the ability,drive, or strength to overcome them. Doors need to be opened, not closed.”
Fully funding post-secondary education is a long-term contribution in the province’s economic growth, and an investment in BC’s people and future.
You can let the BC government know how important post-secondary education is by adding your name along with thousands of other British Columbians to our education pledge. There’s an election coming up on May 9th, and we need a change for BC students.