U of A international students will get predictable tuition fees but at higher cost

Future international students will have to pay $5,000 to $7,000 more each year, but at least they will know the full cost of their degree.

Tuition increases between 6 and 12 per cent in store for 2020

A new policy will increase tuition for international students by six to 12 per cent, but their rates will be guaranteed for four years. (University of Alberta)

The University of Alberta's board of governors have voted in favour of a new program-based tuition model that will allow international students to have fixed tuition rates during their degree, but at a higher cost. 

With the new model, tuition fees for international students will increase annually by six to 12 per cent, depending on the program. The change means international students will be paying about $5,000 to $7,000 more per year. 

In the previous model, tuition increases for international students have averaged at approximately three per cent per year. 

Murtoza Manzur is an international student finishing the final year of his political science degree. He says he fought for tuition predictability for years.

"In the earlier years, what they used to do is just increase tuition fees every year, so we didn't have a set amount," he said.

"We came with a plan but then every time they increase the tuition, we had to go back to our parents or look for sources to cover for that expense. Now that the proposal guarantees that amount, I think that's better than what we have right now definitely," Manzur said. 

Akanksha Bhatnagar, president of the students' union, said she supports the predictability model but thinks the tuition increase is too high.

"It's frustrating because international students are already subject to such high costs of tuition," she said.

"This is going to have a really negative impact on students going forward, in terms of affordability," Bhatnagar said, adding she would like to see more bursaries, awards and scholarships provided for international students. 

Melissa Padfield, the university's registrar and interim vice provost, said money from the increased tuition will be used to keep up with inflation and stay competitive with other schools. 

She says the changes come on the heels of Bill 19, Alberta's new legislation that requires international students to pay the full cost of their tuition. 

"The financial risk now is on the university to make sure that we can deliver those programs in the way students will expect us to and have them cover those costs if they're an international student," Padfield said. 

Padfield said $8.5 million from the increased tuition fees will go back to international students through programs and financial support. 

The new policy will only apply to international students coming in fall 2020. 

According to the new policy, an engineering degree will cost $39,500 per year; a business degree $35,000; and an arts and science degree $29,500.