SFU rebuffs calls to reduce planned tuition hikes for international students

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This story was originally published in The Peak, SFU’s student newspaper.

The SFU administration has officially responded to a letter sent by the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) on Oct. 24 regarding the proposed 10 per cent increase in international undergraduate student tuition fees for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

The letter states that while the administration appreciates the interest the SFSS has taken in the university’s financial situation, they will not institute a ‘grandfather clause’ for current international undergraduates, nor will they freeze the current cost of their fees.

In March 2013, the SFU Board of Governors approved an increase in tuition fees for international students by 10 per cent per year for the following three years. In contrast, domestic undergraduate student fees are scheduled to rise by two per cent per year.

In their original letter, the SFSS expressed their concerns about the lack of consultation by the university with the international student community, and believed the fee increases would not sustainably support the university’s increased operating costs.

The university responded on Dec. 10 in a letter signed by VP, Academic and Provost Jon Driver and VP, Finance and Administration Pat Hibbitts.

The letter stated that the SFU administration believes the increases are justified by four factors: the university receives no governing grants for international undergraduate students; the fees will allow the university to maintain a balanced budget; the prices are comparable to international undergraduate student fees at other Canadian universities; and international undergraduate student fees will contribute to infrastructure costs, which domestic students otherwise support with their taxes after they graduate.

The letter also stated that the university would not institute a ‘grandfather clause’ that would exempt current international undergraduates from the most recent proposed increase.

In their original letter, the SFSS also requested that the university create a degree completion fund to support international undergraduates, as well as commit to keeping international student fees at current levels for the next five years.

The university stated that they will set aside 25 per cent of the revenues from the eight per cent increase to international tuition for student support, including scholarships and bursaries. However, they explained that they cannot commit to keeping international fees at current levels.

SFSS president Chardaye Bueckert spoke to The Peak about the response.

“We were pretty disappointed that all of our requests, even the one that didn’t entail any monetary contributions or have any monetary consequences, were turned down,” she said, referring to the request to amend the consultation protocol to increase student awareness.

She continued, “We made those requests with the intention of working cooperatively with the university to ensure that, if the fees were increased, that they were the least harmful to students as possible.”

Bueckert explained that the next step for the student society is to approach the Board of Governors before they decide whether or not to approve future increases at their meeting in March.

The SFSS will also make efforts to involve the international student body in the coming months. “We still have quite some time to get organized and to get students involved in that process,” said Bueckert, “so that hopefully the increases won’t be approved as a part of that budget package.”

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