VIU Cowichan Helps Record Number of Students with Adult Basic Education Fees

Brianna Thorne, who is taking adult basic education courses at VIU Cowichan, says the help that the campus’s Financial Aid department and Galaxy Motors, through the Galaxy Foundation, were able to provide has enabled her to come back to school.

December 9, 2016 - 9:30am

Campus helped more than 117 students apply for financial aid this fall, and Galaxy Motors scholarship waived application fees for 27 students as well

DUNCAN, BC: Brianna Thorne has always wanted to be a teacher, but life got in the way for a while.

Thorne put her lifelong dream on the backburner while she raised her daughter. But now that her daughter is in Grade 11, the 37-year-old has decided to return to Vancouver Island University’s (VIU’s) Cowichan campus to do some upgrading in preparation to enter the Bachelor of Education program next fall.

Thorne credits VIU Cowichan’s Financial Aid department and a local business with helping her get here. Thanks to a generous donation from Galaxy Motors to an ABE Emergency Fund, her application fee to VIU Cowichan was waived, and the Financial Aid department helped her successfully apply for the provincial government’s Adult Upgrading Grant, which has given her enough money to cover tuition costs and books.

“There’s no way I could have taken the courses I need to take without that assistance,” says Thorne. “It’s definitely opened a ton of doors for me. I’m working really hard and excited to be here – I think having some life experience and knowing how crappy things can be when you’re not educated drives me. Up until now, I didn’t find the focus to balance it all.”

June Karstad, VIU Cowichan’s Office Manager and Financial Aid Assistant, says the number of students applying for financial aid this fall has skyrocketed, with much of that demand coming from students taking adult basic education courses.

“I helped 117 students get approved for the Adult Upgrading Grant so far this semester, which is three times as many as last semester,” she says.

While the course costs can be covered through the Adult Upgrading Grant, Karstad says staff were concerned that the application fee to become a VIU student might hold some people back from taking courses. VIU Cowichan staff hosted a fundraiser in May that raised money to cover about 10 application fees, then soon after, Galaxy Motors stepped forward.

“When we were talking to students, it became obvious to us that many of them couldn’t afford the $38.50 application fee – for them, it came down to a choice between buying groceries that week and applying to come to school,” says Karstad. “We wanted to help them come back to school and continue their education – we didn’t want that application fee to be the barrier – so we are very grateful to Galaxy Motors for their support.”

Through its Galaxy Foundation group of scholarships for Vancouver Island youth, Galaxy Motors is providing $2,000 annually for an ABE emergency fund, which has been used to waive the application fee for new students, as well as an additional $1,000 award for an ABE student in Cowichan, $1,000 for a culinary student in Cowichan, and four $1,000 awards for students in the Automotive Technician program at the Nanaimo campus.

Kevin McCaw, General Sales Manager for Galaxy Motors locations in Nanaimo and Duncan, says the awards are part of his company’s Galaxy Foundation, a network of scholarships supporting youth across the Island.

“At Galaxy Motors, we are continually searching for meaningful ways to support local community initiatives,” he says. “We can think of no finer way to celebrate today’s motivated youths than by rewarding them with the opportunity to seek higher education which, ultimately, creates a stronger, more vibrant Vancouver Island for all of us.”

VIU Cowichan helped 27 students with the application fees this fall. And starting in October, the University decided to eliminate the application fee for ABE students at all campuses. Karstad says moving forward, the Galaxy Motors ABE Emergency Fund will be used to help those students who don’t qualify for the Adult Upgrading Grant for various reasons but still need some help to return to school.

To learn more about the programs and courses on offer at VIU Cowichan, visit



Jenn McGarrigle, Communications Officer, Vancouver Island University

P: 250.740.6559 | C: 250.619.6860 | E: | T: @VIUNews

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