Thinking of going back to school? You are not alone.
Every year, thousands of Albertans go back to school after being away from the classroom.
Alberta has a learning system that can help make your learning fit your life.
Learning options on this page are for adults who do not have a high school diploma or wish to improve their English.
If you already have a high school diploma, you have different education options. Read about planning for post-secondary.
If you are 19 years old or younger on September 1, you can explore taking tuition-free high school courses:
Where to start
Before you start looking for learning options, ask yourself:
Why am I going back to school?
You can be going back to school for a number of reasons, such as for:
- personal growth
- better job opportunities
- further education afterwards
What do I need to learn?
Think about what you need to reach your learning goal or improve your life. This can include:
- improving your reading and writing
- learning English as a second language
- specific courses or skills needed for admission to a post-secondary program
- the skills you need to get a job you want
How do I learn best?
There are many different ways to learn:
- in a classroom, where you can study full-time or part-time
- one-on-one or in small groups, where you work with a tutor
- correspondence, where your class work is mailed to you
- online, where you do your class work on a computer
Who needs to recognize my learning? Do I need a credential?
- if the classes you take can help you get into another program
- what you need to get a job
If you are just going to school for yourself — and not to get a new job or into another learning program — you do not need a credential.
What is it going to cost?
Building a budget can help you plan how much money you need while you learn. Consider:
- tuition costs for your program or classes
- learning supplies you may need
- living expenses, like rent or daycare
- if you can work while you study
Several programs offer financial assistance.
The program you take depends on what you want to study. If you have more than one option to get the learning you need, you can base your decision on what will work best for you.
For example, if you work full-time, you could look at:
- online study
- part-time learning
If you have kids, you may need to find child care while you study.
If you already know where you want to learn, contact the provider and ask to take a learning assessment test. This test can help you figure out what skills you already have.
If you do not know which program is right for you, Alberta Supports can help.
Learning foundations (pre-high school)
These programs can help you:
- return to learning
- add skills to get a job or improve your life
- prepare for other learning opportunities, like academic upgrading
You can take classes or tutoring in several areas, such as:
- English as a Second Language (ESL)
- digital skills
- life skills
Consider a basic skills program if you:
- would like to take either full or part-time classes
- need courses that line up with the high school curriculum
- want to move on to take high school courses
Consider community adult learning if you are:
- not necessarily interested in taking high school courses
- more interested in taking nonformal, flexible, part-time training opportunities at a community organization
Academic upgrading (high school)
If you need to take a course or increase your high school marks to get into a post-secondary program, you could take an academic upgrading course for credit. These courses are:
- formal courses that correspond to the Alberta high school curriculum
- generally accepted by Alberta universities and colleges
- offered in many ways:
- in a classroom
- through correspondence
Funding for tuition and a living allowance may be available.
Read more about academic upgrading.
English as a Second Language (ESL)
ESL classes can help you communicate fluently or learn effectively in English. ESL learning is:
- the study and practice of the English language
- available as either full-time or part-time learning
- offered by:
- community adult learning providers
- school boards
- post-secondary institutions
- other types of learning providers, such as businesses
Funding for tuition and a living allowance may be available.
Transitional Vocational Program
If you have a mild developmental disability, this program provides training that helps you:
- learn specific career and life skills
- be more independent
Tuition for this program is paid for by the Government of Alberta.
Find out more about supports for students with disabilities.
Find your best fit
The program type that is best for you depends on what and how you need to learn.
Before you decide on a course or program, ask yourself:
- Does it help me get closer to my future goals?
- Is it taught in the way I learn best?
- Do I think I will feel comfortable as a student there?
- Am I ready?
For example, if you need to take ESL courses, you can take either credit or non-credit options. A non-credit course offered by a community adult learning provider could be a good fit if you:
- want to improve your English speaking, but do not need a grade for further learning
- need flexible learning opportunities that work with your schedule (tutor, drop-in, evenings and weekends)
- want to learn in a safe, welcoming environment within your community
- need child care, transportation support or reduced fees
If you need help figuring out your best fit, contact Alberta Supports.
How to pay for it
How you pay for your learning depends on your financial situation. You may be able to pay for your education on your own if you:
- plan to keep working to pay for your courses as you take them
- can use money you saved to cover these costs
- have a learning account or financial support from your employer
You cannot get loans or grants through Alberta Student Aid for the programs listed above. Many Albertans, however, need some help meeting the costs of learning and living.
If you can demonstrate financial need and meet eligibility requirements for funding, you may be eligible for financial assistance.
Ask your learning provider if there are ways they can help. Alberta Supports also offers advice to Albertans who cannot afford to pay for learning costs within their budget.