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International Students Question Fee Hikes At Canadian HEIs

Despite the uncertainty surrounding the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, international tuition fees at some institutions across Canada have increased by almost forty (40) percent for some courses, as HEIs seek to cover costs and invest more into support services.

As a result, student-led initiatives calling for tuition fees to be reduced for foreign students have been started.

While some Canadian higher institutions have not increased their tuition fees in 2020, others insist increases are inevitable to meet the true cost of educating students – as well as to offer scholarships and other support initiatives.

In Ontario, the University of Guelph‘s international student organization has protested against tuition fee increases for students ranging from 5-10% for undergraduate programs to 3-37% for graduate courses.

The group has also called on the higher institution to reverse the 2020/2021 increases immediately, to freeze tuition fees, and provide more scholarships, grants, and bursaries for international students.

“The increase of tuition for international students is not acceptable, especially during the coronavirus pandemic,” said Guelph student, Giovanna Percel duing the launching an online petition in May.

“Increasing tuitions at this point would result in many international students like myself having to quit their studies and goals, unable to afford academic as well as living costs.

“Considering that the many of international students come from undeveloped countries, many already face financial difficulties as the economies of those countries are weak —imagine during a global pandemic,” she added.

The university announced this month that it would introduce three new initiatives for the next academic session, including a one-time credit incentive of CAD$750 for all students coming from foreign countries, and a needs-based assistance bursary of up to $1,250 per semester for international students who struggle to afford their tuition.

International Undergraduate Entrance Scholarship awardees will also be qualified for an additional $4,000 in subsequent years if they continue to meet specific requirements.

“We will continue to re-assess and re-evaluate the needs of these students during the pandemic and also find other ways to offer our support,” said Stuart McCook, assistant vice-president international at the university of Guelph.

Elsewhere, more than 6,000 people have joined calls for the University of Toronto to freeze or reduce tuition fees for all undergraduate international students at its three campuses citing issues around the pandemic, the economic downturn in their home countries, and the loss of part-time work for international students in Canada.

The university has said it will continue to raise the cost of its tuition fee for international students, which has been increasing by around $2,000 per year for many programs.

“International fees are set at a level to more closely reflect the true cost of educating students, while revenue from scholarships, grants and tuition fees for local students remains well below the true cost,” the University of Toronto has said.

The university’s international tuition fees are appropriate given its position in international rankings, it said – its Arts & Science international undergraduate tuition fees of $54,848 in 2019/20 was the highest among the U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities.

The University of Toronto management said it is committed to ensuring it provides financial assistance to international students who may encounter financial challenges, as well as providing scholarships and grants to be “awarded on the basis of exceptional academic merit and financial needs”.

Some student service fees – including Student Life and athletics & recreation fees – have been reduced the university management noted.

A university spokesperson highlighted that foreign students are provided with “significant support” such as fourteen (14) day quarantine accommodations – meals, health checks, and other supports – at no extra cost to students returning to Canada.

International students also have access to immigration advisors to address concerns around student permits, traveling to Canada, and what to expect when they arrive.

Additionally, many post-secondary institutions across Canada have introduced emergency bursaries and funding for students in need due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Québec, international students at McGill University’s School of Continuing Studies will see tuition for graduate students increased by 35.3% while international undergraduate students will rise by 7.7%, students have warned, saying the increase was “substantial, unexplained, sudden, and inequitable”.

Other courses at McGill university’s tuition fees have increased by some $2,000 on last year’s costs. For instance, its bachelor of commerce course price has increased from around $43,900 in 2019 to almost $45,700 in 2020.

The tuition for 2020 is an increase of around twenty-nine percent on 2016 fees when the course’s tuition stood at $40,802.70.

According to the university, increases are based in part on comparisons with other schools of similar size, mission, and calibre, and in part, on the annual increase in the cost of delivering high-quality programs.

McGill university added it is committed to allocating thirty percent of the net revenue derived from tuition increases to student aid.

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