By: Jacob A. Vriens

UBCO students fight the never-ending battle against tuition fee hikes. During March of every year, student elections take place and international student fees are always a heated topic.

Some candidates, such as Amal Alhuwayshil from Saudi Arabia, advocate for regulations on annual international student tuition increases.[i] This resonates with UBCO’s international undergraduate student population of 1186, which makes up 13% of the universities total population.[ii]

However, not all students agree with such campaigns to regulate international student tuition increases. A student run Facebook page anonymously published a student’s opinion on international student fees. This student argues that international student fees should not be regulated like domestic student fees because Canadians subsidize costs by paying taxes.[iii]

Such arguments are met with both agreement and disagreement for several reasons. The anonymous post is correct with its assumption that the Canadian taxpayer reduces the cost of tuition for domestic students.

According to members of UBCO’s administration staff, who did not wish to be quoted to represent UBC’s view on the matter, Canadian taxpayers make domestic student fees cheaper than international student fees.

Nevertheless a key issue in the discussion of international student fees, is the fact that they are not regulated like domestic student fees are. The B.C. Provincial Government’s Tuition Limit Policy sets domestic university fee increases at the rate of inflation. The rate of inflation is usually under 2%. The policy explicitly excludes international students from such regulations.[iv]

Therefore, when domestic tuition increases by a maximum of 2% every year, international student fees see hikes of 3%. The problem is that there is virtually no limit. According to the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS), “charging differential tuition fees to international students is drastically out of step with the long-term needs of Canadian society.”[v]

The CFS argues against tuition differences between domestic students and internationals The federation explains that government’s own research concludes, immigrants with a Canadian post secondary education are more likely to prosper and contribute to society.

As Canada’s labor market ages, international students become more important in Canada’s economy. They contribute over 8 billion dollars to the economy annually. According to the CFS increasing tuition fees for internationals will discourage an influx of foreign scholars to build a prosperous and innovative Canada.

As of summer 2018, incoming international undergraduates will pay $3500 in tuition per course at UBCO.[vi] In comparison, a domestic student starting at UBCO in the summer of 2018 will on average pay about $550 per course.[vii] That makes international fees more than six times as expensive as domestic student fees.

Continuing international students who already study at UBCO will experience a 3% tuition hike on top of their current fees. Domestic students on the other hand experience a 2% tuition increase.[viii]

Increasingly high tuition fees have become a considerable burden for international students in the last decade. Some internationals at UBCO face being forced to drop out because they cannot pay for their education.[ix] The fact of the matter is that Canada needs competent immigrants to replace an aging workforce and increasing student fees might not aid this cause.