International tuition increased 64 per cent since 2006, BCFS says
By Jake Wray, News Editor
The British Columbia Federation of Students (BCFS) is asking the provincial government for an annual cap on tuition increases for international post-secondary students.
Tuition for domestic students can only increase by two per cent each year in British Columbia, but no such regulation exists for international students. Provincial funding for post-secondary institutions has decreased in recent years, while operating costs for those institutions have increased, leading most post-secondary institutions to rely on international students’ tuition payments as a primary source of revenue growth.
“Due to government underfunding, institutions have come to depend on the revenue they receive from increasing fees for international students,” a post on the BCFS website said. “However, unpredictable fees make budgeting impossible, meaning some international students are forced to leave Canada before completing their studies.”
Aran Armutlu, chairperson of the BCFS and former finance director for the DSU, said the Fairness for International Students campaign is currently in a “soft launch” for the summer but it will be in full swing by September. He said BCFS members will lobby the provincial government and their respective schools.
“One of the main ways our members will be doing that is by sending postcards to the Minister of Advanced Education asking them to implement policy,” Armutlu said in an interview with the Other Press. “They will also be sending postcards to their respective [post-secondary] administration requesting the same thing.”
The BCFS also plans to lobby for increased provincial funding for post-secondary institutions, which could counteract any future revenue compromised if international tuition increases were capped, but Armutlu said that will be a separate campaign, which could begin as soon as January 2019. A dearth of provincial funds for post-secondary schools “is the underlying issue that is causing many of the other issues,” Arumtlu said.
Armutlu said BCFS campaigns generally follow election cycles to maximize lobbying impact, but the current NDP government has demonstrated openness to issues the BCFS values.
“The NDP have made a number of promises that fall in line with our campaign goals (i.e. elimination of interest on student loans) so we will continue to put pressure there,” he said.
International students at Douglas College chastised Douglas College administrators about tuition increases during a student budget consultation at the college in February.
Christen McDonald, an international student who studies environmental science at Douglas College, addressed administrators during the consultation and blasted a 9.4 per cent increase in her tuition.
“Douglas College unexpectedly raised my tuition fees for fall 2017 by 9.4 per cent with no warning to the people paying that,” she said. “Like many international students, my parents are not wealthy. With uncapped tuition increases, my education is at stake.”
Tracey Szirth, chief financial officer for Douglas College, said during the budget presentation that the college increased international student tuition by 1.9 per cent annually for three years, but they received feedback from students who said annual increases were difficult to plan for. Consequently, the college increased international student tuition by 9.4 per cent in the 2017/2018 fiscal year, but there will be no international student tuition increases for the following two years, according to Szirth.