Students poised to protest international student fee increase

Campus News
The results of the UVic Senate and Board of Governors results have now been released. File photo by Hugo Wong/The Martlet
The UVSS is prepared to protest Tuesday’s UVic Board of Governors meeting as the board votes on a proposal to increase international student tuition fees by four per cent. File photo by Hugo Wong/The Martlet

On Tuesday, March 28, the UVic Board of Governors (BoG) will be asked to approve an increase of four per cent to international student fees. The proposed increase is part of the university’s integrated planning and budget framework, which would take effect starting May 1, 2017.

In response, the UVSS will protest the meeting to let the board know that students won’t stand for an increase of that size.

In a letter addressed to the BoG, UVSS Director of International Student Relations Tianyang Zhang wrote that the fee increase was “unfair and arbitrary,” and asked that UVic vote against the proposal.

On top of having to pay tuition fees that are already significantly greater than what domestic students pay, Zhang wrote that international students face other barriers in attending school at UVic, including racism in the housing and job markets, poor currency exchanges, and lack of access to financial aid and bursaries.

The tuition that international students currently pay varies depending on faculty, but most undergraduate international students pay approximately three times as much as domestic students. The per fee unit cost for international undergraduates in Education, Fine Arts, Human & Social Development, Humanities, Science, and Social Science faculties, for example, is $1 157.84, whereas domestic students pay $357.84.

Undergraduate fee schedule. Via UVic
Partial undergraduate tuition fee schedule. Screenshot via UVic Office of the Vice-President Finance and Operations

International graduate students similarly pay more than their domestic counterparts, though the discrepancy isn’t quite as significant; domestic students pay $1 858.26 per term, while international students pay $2 211.16 for most Masters and PhD programs.

UVic Graduation tuition fee schedule
Partial graduate tuition fee schedule. Screenshot via UVic Office of the Vice-President Finance and Operations

“For international students already attending UVic, raising fees by 3-5% creates an added financial burden that we did not expect to take on when we came here,” Zhang wrote in his correspondence. “For some students, this fee increase could be insurmountable.”

Fee increases meant to address inflationary rates

The planning and budget framework document circulated before Tuesday’s BoG meeting states that in previous years, the university had adjusted international tuition annually at the same rate as domestic tuition — two per cent.

However, the document states that UVic’s international tuition fees are “well below levels at comparable universities in B.C. and Canada,” and that the university had committed to a review of international fees last year.

For comparison’s sake, the University of British Columbia charges $1 163.76 per credit for international undergraduates, with some exceptions depending on faculty, which is lower than UVic’s fee. But the University of Western Ontario charges $1 437.51 per full credit for all faculties except Engineering and Law.

To ensure the inflationary rate that is applied to international fees matched the actual inflationary costs of the university — which was estimated by UVic to be approximately $10.3 million annually — the review determined that an increase of 4.2 per cent was required. That was then rounded down to the current proposal of four per cent.

According to the budget framework document, international students at both undergraduate and graduate levels make up for 32 per cent of tuition sources, whereas they only comprise 16 per cent of the student body overall.

The Martlet has contacted UVic for comment on the proposed increases and will update when we hear back.

Pressure is on for UVic to reconsider

In a press release Monday, the UVSS accused UVic administrators of “working against the needs of international students by forcing them to shoulder a heavy financial burden to make up for UVic’s funding shortfalls.”

The Graduate Students’ Society (GSS) expressed similar sentiment in an open letter published last week, co-signed by Daniel Martin, GSS director of communications, and Amanda McLaughlin, GSS chair, respectively.

“UVic’s reputation as an inclusive, welcoming environment for international graduate research is under threat,” they wrote. “The disproportionate tuition increase and lack of transparency leaves international students feeling isolated and apprehensive.”

A petition created two weeks ago has so far netted 707 signatures at time of writing. Students wishing to join the UVSS and GSS in protest can do so at the Senate and Board Chambers on Tuesday at 11 a.m.

The Martlet will have more on this story as it develops.