Isabella Cheng speaks with UWindsor VP Research Michael SiuIsabella Cheng (right) speaks with UWindsor VP Research Michael Siu during an event announcing a program that will pay 100 percent of university tuition for students coming out of the care of Children’s Aid Societies.

Tuition grants to support Crown wards and youth leaving care

As a third-year student of visual arts, Isabella Cheng knows how to paint a picture.

On Tuesday, she painted a picture of gratitude as the Ontario government announced a new partnership with the province’s universities to cover the tuition fees of current and former Crown wards like Cheng.

“This is a dream come true for me,” Cheng told government and university officials and media gathered for the announcement in Vanier Hall. “A huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders.”

She has worked in retail since she was 16 years old and qualified for scholarship support, but even so, she expects the new funding to change her life.

“I now can focus on my schoolwork without worrying about financial issues,” she said.

Under the program, the government will cover half of tuition fees and partner universities the other half, up to a maximum of $6,000 per year for youth in and leaving the care of Children’s Aid Societies. In addition, the government will provide a grant of $500 per month to help cover living costs for youth leaving care aged 21 to 24 who are enrolled in OSAP-eligible college and university programs.

Windsor West MPP Teresa Piruzza, minister of children and youth services, said the support will help encourage more young people to acquire the skill sets required for them to succeed.

“We want a prosperous Ontario where everyone gets the opportunity to pursue their dreams,” she said.

She estimated about 500 youth across the province will qualify for the grant, including about 20 at the University of Windsor.

Cheng expects to start receiving the monies in September. She said she hopes to justify the province’s investment in her.

“I aspire to be a successful artist or designer,” she said. “Hopefully, this money will be well-spent.”