UVic students protest increase in international tuition fees

About 100 University of Victoria students jammed into a meeting of the board of governors Tuesday to protest an increase in tuition fees for international students.

After asking students several times to be quiet, board members abandoned the meeting and moved to another building on the campus.

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Board members agreed that fees will increase in September by four per cent for international undergraduate students enrolled before April 2018 and by 15 per cent for those enrolled after April 2018. Tuition fees for domestic undergraduate students will increase by two per cent.

Ainsley Kerr, director of campaigns for the UVic Students’ Society, said students object to the two-tiered system of fees.

“It creates a divide within the student community,” Kerr said. “These are people who feel they are paying for your education since they are paying so much more.”

Domestic students are subsidized by the provincial government and pay about $6,000 for two semesters. International students must pay about $25,000, which is the full cost of instruction, and laboratory, library and computing services.

International student fees also cover all associated benefits provided by the university. That includes health services, including mental health, along with academic advice and career planning.

UVic provides financial services to international students, including scholarships, bursaries, emergency loans and work-study opportunities.

UVic’s undergraduate student body of 21,727 includes 2,680 international students. Of the university’s 3,713 graduate students, 1,033 are international students whose fees will increase by four per cent.

Gayle Gorrill, UVic vice-president finance and operations, said the university started looking three years ago at fees charged and services provided to international students. She said UVic’s fees are lower than those at comparable universities such as Simon Fraser.

She added that UVic asked international students what they wanted and were told health care and more work study. She said both requests have been addressed.

Gorrill said the rise in fees was part of a balancing act, good educational experience versus costs.

“It’s all a function of saying what are the resources UVic needs,” Gorrill said. “That’s to cover not only inflation but all the other things that are important to provide a quality learning experience.”

Kerr said international students are a vital part of the university community and make for a richer education for all. They should be encouraged, not charged more.

“Diversity is one of Canada’s key values,” Kerr said.

“In a learning environment, it enriches every class you are in, whether it’s arts, politics or science.

rwatts@timescolonist.com

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