Reforming BC’s Scholarship Program?

The BC government recently stopped accepting online submissions to its review of the BC scholarship program, but I had a chance to reply before it closed. The rationale for the review was well stocked with the 21st century jargon that Ministry of Education apparatchiks so adore:

British Columbia has one of the best education systems in the world. But it’s a world that is changing rapidly, and we owe it to our students to keep pace. This review of the Ministry of Education’s scholarships and awards is an opportunity to ensure they align with the new directions in education transformation as outlined in the BC Education Plan. The plan’s vision is to create a more flexible and dynamic education system where students are more engaged and better prepared for life’s journey.

I decided to ignore the change-for-the-sake-of change ideology inherent in this statement, and its typically gratuitous use of “transformation”. Instead, being the team player that I am, I thought I would play along and offer a brief critique of the provincial scholarship program.


The dollar amounts for provincial scholarships are, frankly, a pathetic joke. A $1000 for a top academic student? That’s chump change. The amount hasn’t changed in decades and doesn’t come close to addressing the crushing burden of university. If the government is going to starve the post-secondary system and embrace user-pay costs on behalf of failed corporate tax cuts, the least it can do is raise its support for British Columbia’s brightest students. To be honest, many academic students don’t even worry about the provincial scholarships. Instead, they find an after-school job. They’ll make more money that way. If they earn a provincial scholarship, so be it, but it makes almost no difference in the larger scheme of things. Indeed, my school district doesn’t even make an effort to promote the provincial scholarship program. What’s the point?

And then there are the community scholarships, a pool of money that, in my district at least, offers much more money to students than provincial scholarships. Every year, huge amounts of local scholarship money based on community service go unused or are under-utilized; community service students, whose volunteering can be very mercenary, often don’t survive past the first semester of post-secondary education. To be blunt, they aren’t academically strong enough to hack university.

The painful reality is that many academic students are already very jaded. They live in a province where academic performance is treated as unimportant. Many are angry about all the fuss that’s being paid to vocational students, for example. Then, on top of that, they can’t afford to go to university. Finally, the scholarship money they need is either insultingly small or not even geared to them.

Given the loaded language of your survey, nothing will likely change.

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