University of Windsor international student frustrated by fee increase amid COVID-19
Incoming international students to pay between 5% and 16% more in fees
University of Windsor master's student Tanay Jivani says he's willing to cover the cost of a fee increase for his education, but would've preferred if his school had deferred the increase until after the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is resolved.
Jivani began his education in January 2020, and at the time, was expecting to pay roughly $7,500 per semester for his first two semesters at the university.
A few days ago, however, when checking a bank statement related to his tuition, Jivani noticed the university had deducted approximately $8,600 — roughly $1,100 more than he was expecting to pay.
"I thought at the time, they shouldn't have raised the fees," Jivani said.
"The main concern is during this time … we already lost our jobs."
What about domestic student fees?
On Jan. 17, 2019, the Ontario Progressive Conservative government announced plans to reduce tuition fees for domestic students at publicly funded colleges and universities by 10 per cent. In addition to lowering fees for the 2019-20 school year, the government also froze fees for the 2020-21 year.
And since Jivani only moved to Canada in January, he hasn't earned an income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the last 12 months, meaning he doesn't qualify for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
At the same time, he said his family back home is affected by COVID-19-related physical distancing measures as well, so he doesn't feel comfortable asking them for help.
"We are not opposing the government," he said. "But the university … they should international students are not getting funds from anything, so [how] can we arrange the extra money?"
According to Lynette Kivisto, president of the Graduate Student Society and a PhD student in clinical psychology at the University of Windsor, fee increases for international students change depending on whether students are beginning a new program or returning to one they've already started.
Additionally, international graduate student fees differ depending on whether a student is entering a research-based or course-based program.
"Any student who's returning will see a maximum increase of five per cent," she said. "And for students who are incoming, the increases range from five per cent to 16 per cent."
She said MBA programs saw the largest increase in fees as well.
"A lot of students are telling us right now that they're experiencing financial hardship, because a lot of them have been laid off or they've lost employment [and] their parents are experiencing financial hardships because they've been laid off or lost employment," Kivisto said. "So this is really a very difficult time for students to digest that increase in fees."
Kivisto said there haven't been any discussions with the university around pausing or freezing the fee increase.
A lot of students are telling us right now that they're experiencing financial hardship ...- Lynette Kivisto, President, Graduate Student Society, University of Windsor
"The conversations that have been occurring more recently are conversations around what the university is doing with fees for the summer," she said. "Students were very upset at having to pay, for example, an athletic and recreation fee when they can't access the athletic centre."
Kivisto said conversations have led to a 25 per cent reduction in athletic and recreation centre fees.
"Other institutions are actually seeing more reducations in their fees," she said, pointing to Laurentian University, which eliminated athletic and recreation centre fees, and the University of Toronto which reduced fees by roughly 40 per cent.
Still, Kivisto said the University of Windsor's 25 per cent reduction for athletic and recreation fees equates to roughly $25.
"In the scope of a few thousands of dollars in tuition and fees, it really doesn't do much," she said. "It doesn't help. That was the focus for the past few weeks and it does look like the university is not willing to reduce more fees."
University of Windsor associate vice president of enrollment Chris Busch said the school acknowledges the difficulties brought on by the ongoing pandemic, adding that the school is "being compassionate and being flexible for individual circumstances."
Busch said the university has taken steps to help ease the financial burden on students during the COVID-19 pandemic, including freezing interest on late payments, as well as launching a student relief fund to help students experiencing financial difficulties.
"This is not a fund that's going to be able to cover the cost of their full tuition, but it is a fund in which they can apply to, in case of difficulty paying rent or experiencing food insecurity and related matters that are really affecting their personal well-being," he said.
"It's available to all students, international and domestic as well."
Busch added that student groups have "also stepped up" in various ways during the pandemic, including making more donations to the school's food bank.
With files from Sonya Varma