Tuition fees for international students at Dalhousie University are not going up as high as first expected.

The Nova Scotia government has told the university it can raise fees for these students by 3.5 per cent — half of what was proposed.

The move comes after international students complained about the proposed seven-per-cent increase in differential fees, since they already face the same three-per-cent hike affecting all students.

Meela Auaduer was one of the international students who wrote letters to the provincial government. She said a big fee hike would discourage foreign students from studying at Dalhousie.

"They might have to go back to their own country or shift to another university," said Auaduer, a second-year commerce student from Malaysia.

The university proposed the seven-per-cent hike in April. Officials said foreign students are expected to pay more partly because their families don't pay taxes that support universities.

Officials said most of the money would be spent on services for international students.

Dalhousie found out about the province's decision on Friday.

"Compromises are by the very nature, someone loses, someone gains a bit," said Carolyn Watters, Dalhousie's vice-president academic.

By the numbers: International students

About 2,220 foreign students are expected next year.

The number of international students at Dalhousie has climbed 85 per cent since 2008. They now make up over 10 per cent of the student population.

They currently pay $3,630 in differential fees per semester.

"I think what it means is that we can't give the full range of services we had anticipated, but we will be able to improve those services."

Auaduer said international students pay an extra $3,000 on top of tuition already and many question the need for more programs.

"They were just wondering, 'Why do I have to pay just for other students to get the services.' So that was their concern because they don't use the services," Auaduer said.

Watters said the university would review its programs over the course of the year.

The province plans to re-evaluate the fee increase in April.