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International students at Western upset by tuition hike during pandemic

Some international students at Western University are protesting tuition fee hikes saying the increase does not justify the services the school is offering this year. 

An international student in the psychology program at Western says her tuition increased by $2,500

Arshi Dobani, a third year psychology student at Western, says she expected tuition to decrease this year after so many amenities were unavailable. (Submitted: Arshi Dobani)

Some international students at Western University are protesting tuition fee hikes saying the increase does not justify the services the school is offering this year. 

Western says international fees are going up by as much as 12 per cent for some students, including a more than $5,000 bump for certain Ivey business programs. The majority will see a two per cent jump.

The average price for undergraduate international tuition at Western is $36,000. 

Arshi Dobani, a student from India, was shocked to see her tuition had increased by $2,500. If anything, she'd expected it to decrease, as courses move online and services on campus are restricted. 

"Honestly, I expected it to go down because we don't get the services we were getting last year, like we don't have recreation or anything opened right now," said the third-year psychology student. 

Other international students expressed similar sentiments. 

Shloak Srivastava, also from India, is going into his second year of the Media Information and Technoculture program. When he learned his annual tuition had increased by over $2,000, Srivastava was surprised. 

Shloak Srivasta is one of many international students who is shocked by the increase in tuition. Srivasta is going into his second year of media information and technoculture at Western. (Submitted: Shloak Srivasta)

"I think there are two things which are bothering me. One is the tuition for the domestic students is somewhat the same and the tuition for international students has primarily gone up. And the international students are already paying so much." 

Western says fee hikes necessary

Tuition fee increases for Western's international cohort range anywhere from 4 per cent to 12 per cent this year, Western Spokesperson Stephen Ledgley wrote in a statement.

Students in graduate programs will pay up to 5 per cent more.

Ledgley said the increase covers "inflationary and operating costs," and that Western is investing in services to help international students get the most out of online courses. 

"We continue to provide the core services funded through tuition and other revenue sources," Ledgely wrote.

"In addition to students' learning from instructors, Western is investing in support services, financial aid advice and academic guidance for undergraduate and graduate students, among other programs."

Petitions

But at the end of the day, students say they still have to come up with the money. For some, it's a significant increase and will force them to rethink their budgets. 

Srivastava said he will ask for more support from home, will cut down on living expenses and will not be buying a new computer this fall. 

It's enough of a concern that Western's international students have started petitions, including one created by those attending the Ivey Business School. 

The petition reports tuition is the same as last year for domestic students, but international honours business administration (HBA) students are paying an additional $5,200, an 11.6 per cent increase. 

Avneet Kaur is one of 2,400 signatories on a second petition that calls for an international student fee freeze. 

"This was our only hope, you know, that the college will help us. Maybe there will be more methods of paying it. But that was a huge shock," said the fourth-year finance and administration Kings student. 

But Ledgley argues Western's fees are still lower than other universities in Ontario. He also suggests there could be flexibility, depending on how the school year unfolds. 

"We are currently assessing what services will be available in the fall. If a service is unavailable, we will look at adjusting students' ancillary fees. This applies to both graduate and undergraduate students."

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