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Increase in International Tuition Fees and UHIP Fees Causes More Distress

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Written by Rachna Mutreja

Last Wednesday, March 22nd, the International Student Organization (ISO) arranged a meeting between international students, Ms. Brenda Whiteside, Mr. Peter Landoni, Mr. Benny Quay and Ms. Laurie Schnarr to discuss the university budget, increase in international student fees and the increase in UHIP (university health insurance plan) fees.

The meeting began with a presentation by Ms. Whiteside of the 2006-2007 Incremental Expenses. She mentioned a gap in the budget due to inflation, increases in faculty salaries, and rising gas and electricity prices. Due to these expenses, an additional 20.8 million dollars are needed for the budget and currently there is a gap of 8.7 million dollars to get out of a deficit next year.

On March 8, 2006, the government declared an increase in tuition for domestic students at a maximum of 4.5% for incoming students and 4% for in-course students. Students in special programs will incur an increase of 8%. Special programs include engineering, computer science, veterinary science, et cetera. However, increases in international student tuition are not regulated by the government, giving the university the option of increasing international student tuition by any amount or at any rate.

Ms. Whiteside gave three reasons for the deficit this year. The reasons included an increase in the price of electricity, the inability to reach targets for fundraising and a lower rate of enrollment than anticipated in the budget.

At the meeting, Ms. Whiteside emphasized the concept that price equals quality. She said that the increase in tuition for international student tuition will attract more students because higher tuition implies the university is of a higher quality. Her rationale for this was that the university has surveyed students who chose not to attend the university and they found that students thought that Guelph was too cheap and hence did not think it was a good school. This idea caused a lot of controversy between the administrators and the students present at the meeting.

The increase in tuition, according to Ms. Whiteside, will change the University of Guelph’s ranking from 8th to 5th in terms of the cost of tuition. However, even if there is a change, our position compared to other universities will not change that much, according to her. This is the third year international student tuition is being raised and it is becoming very problematic for students. The University of Guelph tuition fee for international students is the lowest in the province and this apparently causes lost revenue in the budget while there is a decline in international student recruitment. This decision to increase international student fees to improve the reputation and quality of the university is supported by the President of the University, Dr. Alistair Summerlee.

The university is also implementing a cohort fee system where student’s fees will not increase during their educational career. Students will only be given a grace period of one semester in case they cannot complete their term in the four years for undergraduate programs and two years for masters program and three years for PhD. Additionally, students who move from the masters to PhD program will not see an increase in their fees.

At this moment in time, one very serious issue arises. Many international students have applied and received offers of admission to the University of Guelph to start in the fall semester. However, they are completely unaware that the tuition is being raised from about $9,500 to $13,700 per year. Many incoming students will either decline their offers or will have huge difficulties finding funds to support their education. Many international students currently at the university can afford to be here because Guelph has a good reputation and affordable costs. However, with this increase, international students anticipate a decline in international student recruitment, while the administration seems to think that international student recruitment will increase. Moreover, this sudden increase can ruin the university’s reputation as prospective students who intended to attend Guelph might not support the university’s decision and let their friends back home know of this unforeseen and detrimental increase.

Another very important issue brought up is the fact that faculty salaries are constantly increasing and yet tuition is also increasing. Why is it that faculty should receive more money when the tuition is increasing and the quality of the university is not improving. This is causing international students to face more discrimination at the university. Ms. Whiteside’s response to that was that Guelph’s salaries is the lowest and salaries need to go up the ensure the qualified faculty will not leave in order to retain the quality of the institution.

The administrators also mentioned that they have no back up plan if international student recruitment does not increase. One of the discussion topics was whether the university should differentiate tuition fees for different programs since some programs have more money, which in turn means higher quality, while others don’t. However, the administrators had no response to this.

The university administrators said they are trying to find ways to increase funding for international students especially those who will be attending Guelph this fall and incur this unforeseen tuition increase. The university is only thinking about their deficit and how to use the money from international students over the years to eventually move out of their debt position.

One very important point brought up by a graduate student was the fact that over the last four years, the ranking of the university has been going down, yet the international student tuition was increased last year. Hence, how does the increase in tuition reflect an improvement in quality when the rankings are decreasing?

The issue of funding always goes back to the government, and the university can always blame the government for not providing more funding. However, this does not give the university good reason to abuse the fact that they can increase international student tuition by $5000 just because it is not regulated by the government.

UHIP

Another issue is the increase in UHIP rates. UHIP rates are increasing by 33% in the coming school year which is very significant especially for international students who come to Ontario with their families. The claim has been consistent across the university for years but increase now due to a elevation in claims, especially for dependants.

The university understands this is a significant increase and is trying to find ways to assist students, particular families. So far nothing has been finalized. Mr. Peter Landoni said that if the university can find some funds to support this cause, they will try their best but it is hard to tell how much they will be able to raise. Ms. Whiteside also mentioned that all the V.P.s of the universities are recommending ways to try to contain the cost so the fee might come down next year.

The university is also working with Student Health Serivces to come up with a fact sheet to give students tips of what to do for specific medical situations in order to save money. Students also questioned if the university has to stick with Sunlife, the health insurance company, and although we do not have to, they are apparently the cheapest out there. The only university in Ontario that doesn’t use UHIP is University of Windsor and Ms. Whiteside is going to talk to them about their costs and services.

Mr. Benny Quay mentioned that the cost for the international student health plan has decreased before this year to the lowest it has ever been. The premium provided new services and hence, the claims went up. For the company that runs the business, they cannot look at only one year of claims, but they have to review the increases and decreases to decide how much the premiums will cost each year. International students are also concerned about an increase in the dental and drug plan as the Central Students Association is also experiencing a similar pattern of increased claims and expenses.

Ms. Whiteside reiterated that the government does not fund international students and hence the university loses money on every international student and despite this they still do want international students. The federal government talks about how important international students are to the diversity but do not fund and thus, the university loses money.

WORKING OFF-CAMPUS

Related to this issue of costs, since the new government came in, the terms for international students to work off-campus have not been finalized even though there have been talks between the provincial and federal government for many months now. One restriction, however, is that students who have scholarships will not be able to work off campus. In the end, international students cannot work off campus, they have to pay a higher tuition, and there are no extra funds for scholarships, bursaries and work-study positions.

The International Student Organization is collaborating with other campus organizations including CSA, GSA, and CUPE to come up with an action plan to fight the tuition increase and find ways of helping students out. International students at the meeting suggested going to the media and also forming committees to attack these issues. However, due to the timing and the fact that ISO is very small, this is difficult. Regardless, they are trying their very best to resolve this issue.

To offer support and suggestions, please email


MS. WHITESIDE’S FOLLOW-UP TO THE MEETING

In a follow-up to my meeting with international students on Wednesday, I would like to provide details on the University’s proposed tuition rates for 2006/2007. As I presented at this open forum, the provincial government recently released a new framework for setting tuition fees in Ontario, which included a lifting of the freeze on domestic tuition. You may also be aware that the government does not provide universities with any funding for international students; therefore, the only money universities receive to cover the costs of education for international students comes from tuition fees. As a result, tuition levels for international students are not controlled by the province.

For many years, U of G has had lower rates than other Ontario universities. In fact, currently our international student tuition fees are among the lowest in the province for both graduate and undergraduate students.

The University entered this round of tuition discussions facing an $8.7 million gap between revenues and expenses in its preliminary 2006/2007 operating budget. Given the fiscal challenges facing the University, tuition fees for domestic and international students will be raised in an effort to bring U of G closer to the provincial average and be more reflective of the full costs of their education.

However, the University recognizes that it’s important for international students to be able to plan their costs of education. In addition, we recognize that international students will face increases to their health care premiums next year (ranging from $156 to $1,092 annually). Therefore, tuition fees for all currently registered international (undergraduate and graduate) students will be frozen for the remainder of the duration of their program.

Again, I want to reiterate that there will be NO tuition increases for current international undergraduate and graduate students. Tuition for our current international undergraduate and graduate students will remain the lowest in the province . With the increases, new international students entering the University this fall will pay approximately the average tuition fees charged at other Ontario universities. After paying the new rate, however, entering international students won’t be subject to further tuition increases for the normal duration of their programs.

The tuition recommendation that will be incorporated in the University’s 2005-06 MTCU operating budget combines the desire to maintain quality, to move Guelph’s international tuition closer to the provincial average, and to protect our continuing undergraduate and graduate international students from unanticipated tuition increases. As a result, students will know before they accept an offer at Guelph, the total cost of tuition for the duration of their program.

From 2006/7 onwards, the proposed fee increase for entering undergraduate international students will be $2,000 per semester for regular programs and $2,500 per semester for special programs. The increase for entering international graduate students will be $1,333 per semester for all programs.

As mentioned previously, tuition for continuing international undergraduate and graduate students at Guelph will remain the lowest in the province. For students entering this fall, it’s anticipated that Guelph’s tuition will be on par with the provincial average although we must wait first to see what other universities do with their international tuition fees. The following tables provide a comparison of Guelph’s international tuition if no other university changes its tuition.

We continue to press to find additional financial support for international students:

  • We are pressing the federal government to provide the funding to allow international students to work off campus. Both the University and provincial government have signed agreements and are now waiting for the federal government to provide the funds to Immigration Canada to support the program.
  • We have asked the UHIP Advisory Committee to consider allowing students to pay UHIP over two semesters. We are also asking them to look to cost containment.
  • We are working to free up some funds to create an emergency bursary for individuals most affected by the UHIP change (those with dependants and families). Information is forthcoming.
  • The University is currently reviewing changes to domestic student financial aid programs recently announced by the provincial government. We are seeking to direct financial aid to support students who have not been eligible for such aid in the past and to enrich support for graduate students and international students who will be affected by the proposed increases in tuition for next year.
  • Departments are working hard to create support programs for graduate students, both domestic and international.

Deciding to raise tuition, be it domestic or international is never an easy decision. But we are facing significant budget challenges and are anticipating a gap of about $8.7 million between expenditures and expected revenues in the University’s preliminary 2006/2007 operating budget. The additional revenue from the tuition increases will be used to help close the gap.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at

Based on Ms. Whiteside's presentation of the University's position on this issue, the ISO would appreciate any suggestions, opinions, ideas, et cetera. We need all the support we can get on this issue and we need to emphasize that price does not equal quality. The University's reputation is at stake because of their decision to increase tuition and many current students cannot even imagine paying an extra $5000 if they were an incoming student. Please email with any feedback.

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