UBC Okanagan international student Josh Dwamena. Photo: Barry Gerding/Black Press

International students hit hard by B.C. tuition fee hikes

Campaign seeks regulatory controls be imposed on post-secondary institutions

Josh Dwamena arrived in Canada from the U.K. in 2014 excited to begin his post-secondary education at UBC Okanagan.

Now in his fifth year looking to graduate with a business management degree, he describes his post-secondary experience as having both a bright and dark side.

He is glad for the education and life experiences that have come with his enrolment at UBCO, saying all the positive stereotypes about Canadians he was told by friends and family have proven accurate.

“This country has welcomed me with open arms. After four years of studying here, I find myself saying sorry way too often and buying (Tim Hortons) timbits for groups of people I barely know,” he laughed.

But he has faced difficulties on the financial side, as both a victim of economic difficulties back home that have affected his parents’ ability to pay for his education coupled with crippling tuition fee increases.

“When I started here in 2014, my tuition fees were $25,000 a year, and for an international student this year those fees are now $38,000,” Dwamena said.

While the province has imposed a two per cent cap on domestic tuition fee increases, no such regulation exists for international students, leaving them susceptible to annual fee increases well beyond that level.

Those shared financial setbacks for international students are the basis for a campaign launched by post-secondary student organizations across B.C. called “Fairness for International Students.”

The UBC Students’ Union has joined with other student groups at 12 post-secondary institutions across B.C. to align with the B.C. Federation of Students on this campaign, which was unveiled Wednesday at the UBCO campus. Together, they represent 9,100 students.

The campaign is seeking petition signatures for a request to impose regulations for international student tuition fee increases and a new international student education strategy that provides sufficient supports for international students.

“International students come to UBCO hoping to access one of the top 40 ranked universities for higher education in the world, and have the experience of a small campus,” said Amal Alhuwayshil, president of the UBCO Student Union and campaign coordinator for the BCFS.

“However, their tuition fees can unpredictably increase at any time as per the board of governors decision”

Alhuwayshil, an international student at UBCO from Saudi Arabia, said education is the third highest export in B.C. behind only agriculture and forestry.

She cited statistics from 2015 for B.C. that credited international student spending at $3.117 billion, creating 26,000 jobs, adding $1.77 billion to the provincial GDP and $176.4 million in B.C. income tax revenue.

But for all that economic benefit, and adding to the post-secondary education experience for domestic and non-domestic students alike, they are being financially targeted.

She said at UBCO alone, international student tuition fees have increased nine and eight per cent the last two years, and a further four per cent increase is on the table for this year.

“B.C. hosts one-third of all international students in Canada. If the financial hardship being imposed on them without any regulation continues, those students are going to look to other provinces to attend school, and that lost revenue will create hardship for our post-secondary institutions to make up that revenue,” Alhuwayshil said.

For Dwamena, those increased fees he left him facing the prospect of being unable to finish his education, something he has managed to avoid by reducing his semester course load to lower his fees and working as a bartender, although his ability to work is limited by his international student status.

“It feels like on one hand my enrolment allows a box to be ticked off for diversity and another ticked off for revenue which feels like a slap in the face,” said Dwamena.

“Many international students are already struggling to make ends meet. Some B.C. institutions have imposed 15 to 20 per cent tuition fee hikes. I feel that is unfair and unnecessary to raise tuition fees to that extent without providing more services.”

Dwamena said UBCO can justify the nine per cent increase because it is lower than what some other schools charge, but he challenges that fiscal rhetoric of relying on international students to make up budget revenue shortfalls.

“It is not the worst so that is OK? No. This is not an unacceptable reason to leave international students like myself unable to budget for our education in Canada.”



barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares to swab a man at a walk-in COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal North, Sunday, May 10, 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes)
Interior Health records 21 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend

Thirty-six cases remain active; two people are in the hospital, one of whom is in intensive care

Colin James put on a great show at the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds as part of the 2019 Vancouver Island MusicFest. But his Okanagan tour for 2020 has been postponed until 2021. (Photo by Terry Farrell)
COVID-19 cancels more Vernon, Penticton, Cranbrook concerts

The Contenders and Colin James postponed until 2021

Kimberley Minor Hockey players scrimmage with the Dynamiters last year. KMH file
Kimberley and Cranbrook Minor Hockey relationship grows the game for local players

Players can now play to their skill level regardless of city of origin

The KEYSA Indoor Facility is nearing completion as the air-supported dome was raised last week. Trevor Crawley photo.
KEYSA indoor facility project nearing completion

Project remains on budget and set for completion by the end of October

The old Kootenay Springs building on 6th Street in Cranbrook, just off the highway, was on fire Saturday night, Oct 17. Barry Coulter photo
Kootenay Springs building, burns in Cranbrook; other fires still under investigation

Derelict building was on the site of the old Cranbrook Brewery, itself destroyed by fire 95 years ago

With local MLA Adam Olsen looking on, BC Greens leader Sonia Furstenau said a Green government would convert BC Ferries into a Crown corporation Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Green leader Sonia Furstenau promises to convert BC Ferries back into Crown corporation

Promise comes Monday afternoon with five days left in campaign

A passer-by walks past a COVID-19 testing clinic in Montreal, Friday, Oct. 16, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Canada ‘yet to see’ deaths due to recent COVID surge as cases hit 200,000

Much of the increase in case numbers can be attributed to Ontario and Quebec

Police confirm human remains were found in a recycling bin in Vancouver on Oct. 18, 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Human remains found in recycling bin floating near Vancouver beach

Police asking nearby residents to see if their recycling bin has gone missing

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson visits a North Vancouver daycare to announce his party’s election promises for child care, Oct. 9, 2020. (B.C. Liberal Party video)
B.C. parties pitch costly child care programs in pandemic

B.C. Liberals say they’ll deliver on NDP’s $10-a-day promise for lower-income families

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

A B.C. man decided to create a website to help people find family doctors accepting patients. Because Victoria is considered high-demand, clinic openings can’t be posted publicly. (Unsplash)
Vancouver Island man starts website that connects B.C. residents with doctors

Nanaimo man started project to help people find family physicians accepting patients

Voting station at Tzeachten Hall in the riding of Chilliwack-Kent on the first day of advance voting in the provincial election on Oct. 15, 2020. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. VOTES 2020: 380,000 British Columbians head to polls in first 4 days of advance voting

Some of highest voter turnout so far has been seen on Vancouver Island and in Shuswap

Most Read