Privatized adult education drives costs up, enrollment down in Newfoundland

The decision to privatize adult basic education in Newfoundland and Labrador back in 2014 was “not based on sound financial evidence,” says Gerry Byrne, the province’s minister of advanced education, skills and labour – and now, his department is seriously considering bringing it back in house.

"I said a year ago that the decision back in 2013 to eliminate ABE from the college could not be supported by any evidence, financial or administrative. The numbers that were cited by the government of the day could not be verified," he said. 

Previously, adult basic education (ABE) was offered at 12 public campuses across the province, giving adults the chance to complete their high school education. Then, in 2014 the ABE program was privatized in response to budget cuts.

Since the ABE program was privatized, costs have risen significantly, even though enrolment in the program has sharply declined. Government documents obtained through an Access to Information Request in 2016  while enrolment has nose-dived 30 per cent. In some instances, tuition fees have more than quadrupled since ABE was privatized.

Now, the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE), the province’s largest union, is renewing its call for the province to reinstate the adult basic education program at the public college.

“Privatization of ABE is clearly a failed experiment,” says NAPE president Jerry Earle. “If the province is serious about improving educational outcomes and reducing student debt, they would immediately begin the process of reinstating the ABE program at our public college. That would be a modernization plan we could get behind.” 

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