Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Make a dent

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There is reason to applaud University of Winnipeg president Lloyd Axworthy's latest scheme to open university education to more impoverished youth. More encouraging is the fact the provincial government, in committing to pay for living expenses for those selected, sees the needs of teens do not vanish when they legally become adults.

This September, the university will waive tuition for 10 youths in care. Housing, meal plans and textbooks will be paid by the province until they turn 21. Typically, once a child in care reaches the age of 18, they are no longer supported by the state.

The academic prospects of children in the care of the state are not good. The Manitoba Centre for Health Policy found about 49 per cent of children in care didn't graduate high school within six years of starting. The U of W noted that less than five per cent of those who graduate go on to post-secondary education.

The program has not set a minimum academic achievement for entry beyond high school graduation, but the U of W will tutor and set up additional supports for those who struggle once admitted -- a large number of children in care, who are overwhelmingly First Nation or Métis, come from rural communities. Similar well-intentioned sponsorships have not fared so well in other jurisdictions, but the commitment of the university, and careful selection of candidates, make the program a worthy, relatively inexpensive experiment for Manitoba. It will make a small dent in the success rate of the thousands in care, but for those intent on achieving, it is a deserved opportunity.

Editorials are the consensus view of the Winnipeg Free Press’ editorial board, comprising Catherine Mitchell, David O’Brien, Shannon Sampert, and Paul Samyn.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 19, 2012 A10

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