Photo by Sarah James
Photo by Sarah James

“It took me a while to realize this, but a lot of families around the world can afford this [increase]. This is not a financial hardship. Compared to Stanford we’re a steal!” said UBC Okanagan AVP of students, Ian Cull, in response to a question from the international student tuition increase.

To my left an international student threw her face into her hands, and directly behind me, student response varied from eye-rolls to exasperated sighs. From both sides of the issue it seemed that the response to the International Student Tuition Increase Town Hall seemed underwhelming at best.

On Wednesday, October 28, 2015 UBC Okanagan held a consultation between administration and students regarding the proposal to increase new international student tuition by 46.8% starting May 1, 2016 over the course of three years.

Ian Cull, joined by a member of the UBC Okanagan Awards and Financial Support Office rt, led the forum. Not present at the event was UBC Okanagan Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Deborah Buszard, and Provost and Vice Principal Academic, Cynthia Mathieson. Approximately 25 students attended the event.

Why are they doing this? According to Ian Cull, it’s for a number of reasons:

“UBC has looming budget problems and saw this as an opportunity to join a competitive market,” said Ian Cull. The fee increase would “support the mission and excellence of the University” to reflect UBC’s standing as a global university, increase the value of the UBC degree, and place it’s fees at similar levels to peer institutions such as the University of Toronto and McGill.

Yet, the town hall did little to answer UBC Okanagan students’ questions about where the funding would be allocated, how it would impact UBC admissions, the impact it would have on the “collective international student psyche”, and the seeming contradiction to UBC’s commitment to foster diversity.

“It is my personal belief that the increase is far too drastic in size and timeline,” said Tom Macauley, UBCSUO President. “I believe that the increase is in contradiction to our core values as an institution -- being a place of mind and a promoter of high education -- UBC in principle should be making learning more accessible. However, I don’t entirely place blame on the institution. As a publicly funded university, it is the responsibility of the state to mandate greater access to post-secondary education.”

Vague answers to student questions were given, and often deflected to other faculty specific town halls. A statement of the Town Hall’s purpose as a “courtesy to inform students” was also generally reinforced in responses to questions. Ian Cull simply couldn’t answer some questions due to a hurried exit at the 5:15 PM deadline, and an admitted lack of knowledge on particular subjects related to the proposal.

“It sucks that the university, and particularly BOG, is making these proposals and decisions, but isn’t prepared to deal with them at all personally,” said Shira Sneg, UBCSUO Resource Centre Coordinator. “I know it says that we have different policies, acts, and procedure guidelines that dictate this process, but I don’t think it’s right that they are not seeing and talking to the people they are affecting directly.”

If you have concerns about the increase, UBC encourages you to submit your statements in a confidential survey found online. In addition, the UBCSUO will be conducting a month long campaign for survey participation. The survey will also ask students if they would like to participate in an advisory committee that will meet in January to go over the results and metrics of the survey results. From that committee a report will be generated from the UBCSUO office including the opinions of that committee as well as their recommendations to the Board of Governors.

The proposal is to be voted on by the UBC Board of Governors in March 2016.