Chairperson Aran Armutlu and the BC Federation of Students are calling for a cap on increases to international tuition fees in B.C. The announcement came Wednesday morning at Camosun College’s Lansdowne campus in Saanich. Travis Paterson/News Staff

Student group seeks cap on international tuition fees

UVic increased international fees 20 per cent for 2018-19

Advocates for post-secondary students in B.C. are calling for a limit on international tuition increases for B.C. universities.

Aran Armutlu, chairperson for the B.C. Federation of Students, announced a new campaign called Fairness for International Students at Camosun College’s Lansdowne campus on Wednesday morning.

The campaign is in response to extraordinary increases in 2018 by the University of Victoria and Kwantlen University, and points out that while domestic tuition fees are limited to a two per cent increase, there is no such limit in place for international tuition increases in the province. UVic voted to raise its international fees 20 per cent this year and Kwantlen 15 per cent over the next two years.

It’s all part of the funding model in B.C., where international tuition has become a major revenue stream for universities and colleges, said Armutlu.

“Since 2006 average tuition fees have increased by 64 per cent in B.C.,” he said. “If international students continue to pay as much as five times the amount of tuition fees, and are only offered sub-par support services on campus, then international students will choose a province that’s more affordable, and a country that’s more competitive.”

International students are the third biggest revenue generator in B.C., bringing in $3.1 billion, behind only wood and mineral exports. International education is also recognized as one of seven major industry sectors in B.C. with agri-foods, mining, forestry, natural gas, technology and transportation, he said.

UVic’s tuition calculator shows domestic student tuition as $6,428 for two semesters of standard undergraduate classes compared to $22,783 for international students.

Those figures jump to $9,262 domestic and $28,103 international for UVic’s undergraduate business program, while figures do range slightly depending on programs (all figures include $180 dental and $180 extended health fees). It should be noted there is a bigger gap in undergrad programs, and a smaller gap for grad programs, such as UVic’s Masters of Business Administration program, which costs $10,485 domestic for two semesters compared to $12,876 international.

UBC Okanagan in Kelowna currently charges $5,280 to domestic students for two semesters for a fine arts/sciences undergrad compared to around $36,000 to $38,000 for international students starting in 2018.

Like many universities, UBC-O has grandfathered international tuition fees for students who started in 2014, 2015, 2016 or 2017.

As a fifth-year business management undergraduate student at UBC-O, Amal Alhuwayshil’s tuition is grandfathered at about $25,000 per year.

But that’s a ‘Band-Aid solution’ and it has to stop, she said.

“Increases are voted by the board of governors, why do they have the power to vote on tuition increases and why isn’t this regulated across the province?” Alhuwayshil asked. “It was increased to nine per cent this year, what’s to stop them from raising it more next year?”

The oldest of eight siblings, Alhuwayshil came here curious to see how life is on the “other side of the world.”

She is uncertain as to whether she’d like to stay in Canada beyond her education but said going back to Saudi Arabia with fluent English and a degree from a Canadian university is a major competitive advantage.

“It’s why international students come here, to get that Canadian degree,” she said.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Advanced Eductaion said a tuition cap could create a situation where public post-secondary institutions are not able to recover the full cost of international students’ studies.

International students are expected to pay the full cost of their education – no provincial funding goes to support international student tuition, the statement said.

“We know that affordability is a huge issue that affects all students in British Columbia,” said Minister Melanie Mark. “The previous government was focused on simply increasing the number of international students, neglecting this complex situation.”

Mark said her office will review the report from the B.C. Federation of Students for input into their upcoming strategic framework.

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