Views a world apart on fee hikes for UVic international students

International students already face significant hurdles at the University of Victoria — including language barriers, missing home, and tuition fees more than three times those charged their domestic classmates.

So Chinese student Tianyang Zhang, elected representative for international students on the University of Victoria Students’ Society, said it’s unfair for the university to raise tuition for international students by more than double the two per cent increase proposed for domestic students.

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“We pay more than three times the tuition,” said Zhang, an economics student nearing the completion of a bachelor’s degree. “It’s going to be a ton of money for us.”

He and members of the students society are opposing a university proposal to raise tuition for international students by four per cent in the upcoming budget. The UVic board of governors will vote on the proposal on Tuesday.

Gayle Gorrill, vice-president finance and operations for UVic, said the international students are being asked to pay an increase that reflects the true rate of inflation experienced by universities.

Gorrill also noted the provincial government forbids universities from raising tuition for domestic students by more than two per cent.

But she said the cost increases faced by universities for things such as academic libraries, for example, are above two per cent.

“So, accordingly, we are looking at increasing tuition for international students at approximately what our real rates of inflation are,” Gorrill said.

She said the tuition for international students, about $17,000 per term, reflects the real cost of the university education.

Domestic students pay about $5,400 per term, because their education is subsidized by the provincial government, which gets its money from taxes.

“And with our domestic students, their parents pay taxes, but with our international students, that isn’t the case,” Gorrill said. “So with our international students, we have a requirement that they pay for the total cost of their education.”

About 3,775 international students attend UVic, and Gorrill noted the university welcomes and supports them as contributing members of the university community. UVic is in the bottom third among Canadian universities when it comes to tuition fees charged to international students.

UVic plans to add $50,000, an increase of 10 per cent, for bursaries set aside for international students.

“We don’t want finances to be a barrier for international students coming here,” Gorrill said.

But Alysha Flipse, director of outreach for the students society, said increasing fees for international students seems to drive a wedge into the university community.

Flipse said the UVic experience would not be the same without international students.

Even the students society would be less without Zhang’s contributions, she said. 

“It just seems like a better attitude would be working together, students and the university, to lobby government for more funding,” Flipse said. “That works in everybody’s favour.”

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