British Columbia

Kwantlen's international students brace for higher tuition fees

Across the province, international students pay far more for classes than Canadians, with some programs costing international students as much as three to four times more than domestic students.

Tuition increasing by 15% over 2 years while domestic tuition increases are capped at 2%

Post-secondary schools rely heavily on the high tuition rates of international students to supplement provincial funding shortfalls. Advocates worry unregulated increases could cause international students to look elsewhere. (Shutterstock)

International students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University are bracing their wallets for a serious hit as the post-secondary institution plans to increase tuition by 15 per cent over the next two years.

But Kwantlen isn't alone.

Across the province, international students pay far more for classes than Canadians, with some programs costing international students as much as three to four times more than domestic students.

Domestic tuition rates are protected from rising more than two per cent annually because of provincial policy in place, but nothing exists to control the amount institutions can increase international students tuition.

Aran Armutlu with the British Columbia Federation of Students is co-ordinating a campaign that calls on government to amend the Tuition Limit Policy to include the regulation of fees for international students.

"It's being used to subsidize our system… We're really at a point where we're relying on the international students to do that," Armutlu told On The Coast guest host Matthew Lazin-Ryder.

"Having no regulation on international student fees creates this system that relies on them to fill these gaps."

The funding that institutions do receive from the government falls short, so schools rely heavily on the large sums brought in by international students' tuition to make ends meet, Armutlu said.

A Kwantlen spokesperson said the tuition fee increase is necessary to cover additional costs, including the hiring of extra staff, related to a surge in the number of international students.

"The increase in tuition fees will address these budgetary pressures and allow KPU to provide additional support to sustain the quality of our international education program at its current intake levels," a Kwantlen spokesperson said in a statement.

But just as students from around the world are choosing to study in B.C., they can choose to go elsewhere, leaving local institutions high and dry.

"Not only would having a regulation help for the international students in order to budget their lives… but also for the institutions to be able to do that."

Armutlu said that the existing system is treating these students unfairly when they contribute almost $3 billion per year to the B.C. economy.

Not only do they add to the province's economy but having students from around the world enriches every student's experience in the classroom, he said.

"When you're sitting in class, you're not just going through your projects and working with people that are from Canada sitting next to you… but you have someone from Brazil there, you have someone from China, and it's really contributing to the experience that you have learning," Armutlu said.

"I would be super happy if I saw a government saying a two per cent cap as well for international students."

With files from On The Coast

Clarifications

  • This story has been edited to clarify Kwantlen's position that the tuition fee increase is related to the additional costs, including extra staff, associated with a surge in international students.
    Apr 26, 2018 2:27 PM PT

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