EDITORIAL: Tuition hikes leave international students with a mountain to climb

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Illustration by Annie Lepage, Graphics Contributor

Illustration by Annie Lepage, Graphics Contributor

Last week, the UVic Board of Governors approved a $356-million balanced operating budget for the next year. As part of that budget, the university is implementing a six per cent increase to residence fees (on top of previous increases in 2015 and 2016), a two per cent increase to domestic tuition fees, and four per cent to international tuition fees.

Increases to domestic and international tuition in previous years were kept at the same annual rate in practice, but the university says rising operating costs outmatch dwindling revenues. And with the increase to domestic tuition being capped at two per cent annually by law, that means international students have to pay up.

With the increase set to take effect May 1, students are angry, and rightfully so. This tuition hike is the latest instance of the board standing in the face of protests from the students they’re beholden to and saying “choices are constrained,” or “choices are difficult,” or that we need to “find balance.”

International students are already put in a tough situation when they come from across the world to study at UVic. An unfamiliar environment, far away from any friends or family support systems, can be daunting enough without having to worry about whether or not you can continue to afford your already overpriced education. Having the extra financial burden of a hike in tuition placed on students, especially when this increase could come in the middle of one’s degree, is unfair at best, and cruel at worst.

Not only that, but UVic puts a considerable amount of money into presenting itself as a destination for international research, with a reputation for inclusivity and diversity of its student body. But trying to curry favour with an international demographic while simultaneously asking them to pay more than their domestic counterparts creates a tension that’s hard to ignore.

The problem is, no matter how loudly students protest, no matter how many letters of correspondence are sent to the administration, and no matter how many signs are waved in the board’s faces, they refuse to listen. Not as long as the system that perpetuates inequity in post-secondary education remains in place: a system where universities are treated as a business, where ensuring revenues are plentiful is the norm, and where students are seen as a means to an end.

The underfunding of university education is a systemic issue that must be addressed, or else students near and far will continue to bear the burden of ever increasing fees. But until then, it seems that students will have no choice but to suck it up.

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2 Comments

Avatar Jonathan Faerber

Cassels and faculty governor Helene Cazes argued that the 4% tuition increase will support student success and improve the quality of education at UVic. I wish I could believe this. I wish that I could hear directly from international students whether they are satisfied with the “substantial increase in bursary funding for international students who are negatively impacted by any increase in fees”. From experience, however, I doubt that this bursary funding actually benefits those who need it most. Even if it does benefit some, however, the problem is just that: the increase in bursary funding amounts to just the combined international tuition for 10 students. Ten.

Meanwhile, the tuition increase makes education more expensive for thousands of international students, and while this may indirectly benefit a handful of them, I doubt these small number of “lucky” students agree with the tuition increase at all. But I suppose we can’t know, since UVic did not ask. I wish that I could also believe that UVic will put this money back into the support services that students need for their success, but based on the other fee increases included in the Planning and Budget Framework 2017/18 and 2019/20, this is doubtful as well.

For example, yesterday the board voted once again to increase child care fees for students by 4%. This does not sound so bad, until you take into account the previous increases of the last several years (7% over the last two years, over 20% over the last six). The difference is that this year, UVic budgeted for only 84 spaces in 0-5 care, and 117 the next two years following, which translates to a maximum of 42 and 58 spaces accessible to students in fewer categories (as opposed to the maximum 68 available now in more categories). Simply put, UVic is charging far more for less of a child care program. Reduced space, reduced options for students, and higher fees. This is a recurring theme.

Will the 4% international tuition increase or 4% increase in child care costs benefit students directly? Have similar tuition increase substantially improved the quality of education and support services for students in the past?

I wish, like the eight members of the board who voted for these fee increases, that I naively believed that they will. I really do want to believe that UVic manages our tuition money in our best interests. Most of all, I want to believe that our administration listens to their students, and believe them when they say that $50,000 increase in bursaries or a 50,000 increase in child care hours does not improve their lives, on balance. But they don’t listen. And until I hear students agreeing with these perceived “improvements for student success”, I don’t believe them either.

Avatar Jonathan Faerber

In the Board of Governors’ meeting, Cassels and faculty governor Helene Cazes argued that the 4% tuition increase will support student success and improve the quality of education at UVic. I wish I could believe this. I wish that I could hear directly from international students whether they are satisfied with the “substantial increase in bursary funding for international students who are negatively impacted by any increase in fees”. From experience, however, I doubt that this bursary funding actually benefits those who need it most. Even if it does benefit some, however, the problem is just that: the increase in bursary funding amounts to just the combined international tuition for 10 students. Ten.

Meanwhile, the tuition increase makes education more expensive for thousands of international students, and while this may indirectly benefit a handful of them, I doubt these small number of “lucky” students agree with the tuition increase at all. But I suppose we can’t know, since UVic did not ask. I wish that I could also believe that UVic will put this money back into the support services that students need for their success, but based on the other fee increases included in the Planning and Budget Framework 2017/18 and 2019/20, this is doubtful as well.

For example, yesterday the board voted once again to increase child care fees for students by 4%. This does not sound so bad, until you take into account the previous increases of the last several years (7% over the last two years, over 20% over the last six). The difference is that this year, UVic budgeted for only 84 spaces in 0-5 care, and 117 the next two years following, which translates to a maximum of 42 and 58 spaces accessible to students in fewer categories (as opposed to the maximum 68 available now in more categories). Simply put, UVic is charging far more for less of a child care program. Reduced space, reduced options for students, and higher fees. This is a recurring theme.

Will the 4% international tuition increase or 4% increase in child care costs benefit students directly? Have similar tuition increase substantially improved the quality of education and support services for students in the past?

I wish, like the eight members of the board who voted for these fee increases, that I naively believed that they will. I really do want to believe that UVic manages our tuition money in our best interests. Most of all, I want to believe that our administration listens to their students, and believe them when they say that $50,000 increase in bursaries or a 50,000 increase in child care hours does not improve their lives, on balance. But they don’t listen. And until I hear students agreeing with these perceived “improvements for student success”, I don’t believe them either.

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