Studying for a career in mental health and addictions

Gauge Duce was worried that a post-secondary education would be out of reach due to the cost until she discovered a range of financial supports.

Portrait of a woman sitting on a wooden stair case

Camosun College

Gauge is wrapping up a post-degree diploma in Interprofessional Mental Health and Addictions at Camosun College.

“I would not have been able to have any form of post-secondary education if it wasn’t for the tuition waiver program,” she says. “My foster family is great and would do anything for me but the cost of schooling, living and everything here in Victoria is just so expensive.”

After getting into a degree program at the University of Victoria, Gauge was worried about how to pay for her education until a social worker pointed to the Provincial Tuition Waiver Program. This program has been a game-changer for Gauge and other former youth in care, as it covers tuition and mandatory fees for eligible students.

“School wasn’t always a positive experience for students who were in foster care but post-secondary education doesn’t have to be that way,” adds Gauge. “My advice to former youth in care is to just try a program at college or university. You’re being handed an amazing opportunity that we are so blessed to be able to have – I’m so grateful to have had this opportunity.”

Gauge got her Bachelor of Education from UVic and is now finishing up a post-degree diploma in Interprofessional Mental Health and Addictions at Camosun College. For Gauge, the opportunity to pursue higher education was more than just a personal goal – it was a chance to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable individuals.

“During the pandemic it felt like the whole world turned upside down especially for those who are more vulnerable, including individuals who are aging out of care. I realized many individuals struggling feel looked down on and as if they are lesser than others. I once felt like this, and I want to be the kind of person that individuals feel like they can talk to and feel supported by.”

Gauge has a job lined up with Our Place as a Community Centre Worker to help people find resources for treatment and recovery as well as provide clinical counselling.

“I have hopes one day to return to school and do something in business or public administration and go on to work for the ministry and make a difference that way,” she says. “For now, I really enjoy the field work and being able to wake up and see someone who is struggling and letting them know that they matter.”

Gauge credits the staff in the college’s Financial Aid department for helping to navigate the various supports available. The tuition waiver program has covered the cost of tuition and fees at UVic and Camosun, while the Youth Futures Education Fund has assisted with additional expenses.

“In addition to the tuition waiver program, Camosun offers additional supports and services to students who were former youth in care to ensure they have a successful experience at the college,” says Heather Cummings, Vice-President of Student Experience. “Removing the age restriction for the tuition waiver program will help reduce barriers to post-secondary education, support people who want to pursue well-paying and rewarding jobs, and create more opportunities.”

The tuition waiver program is making post-secondary education more accessible for former youth in care by covering tuition and mandatory fees for eligible students. In 2021/22, 61 Camosun students benefitted from the program. Over 231 students at Camosun have accessed the program since its launch in 2017. Effective Aug. 1, 2023, the Province is removing age requirements as part of the StrongerBC: Future Ready Action Plan to make education and training more accessible and affordable.

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Contact information

Rodney Porter

Camosun College