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International Students Respond to Proposed Tuition Increase

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

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Written by the cannon

In response to student’s concerns over University of Guelph’s proposed 5% increase to international tuition as one of its eight ways to overcome its $11million budget problem, the International Student Organisation (ISO) hosted an open forum on the evening of Mar 17th. This specifically provided international and concerned domestic students with an opportunity to communicate directly to President Summerlee and Associate Vice President for Student Affairs Ms. Whiteside about the situation.

One of the major concerns raised at the forum, was that the international student sub-community should not be penalized for shortfalls in the university budget. Although President Summerlee stressed that the deficit was as a result of un-kept funding promises from the provincial government, international students are unprepared to be solutions to a problem caused by the government. Additionally, the total revenue generated from this 5% increase is a mere $250,000. As Alisa Gomez, Vice President of the ISO put it, “...$250,000... [in] the approximately $450 million [university] budget.... is a drop in the bucket”, but “[to] individual students it is an additional financial burden”.

The increase would also be unexpected for in-course international students. In the published ‘University of Guelph Presidential Task Force on Accessibility Final Report’ (Nov 2004), it was clearly stated that “it is essential for… international students to know the full cost of tuition… when they begin their studies. Many…have saved for their higher education and find it very difficult if they spend more than they projected”. As Li Lin, President of ISO, questioned President Summerlee at the forum, “how would you still propose to increase our fees, knowing that we would like to plan for four years [before our first year]”. To this President Summerlee told of his plan where “…you will know what the fee is going to be for four years… in your program [when students are first admitted], because I think that [it] is important to do [so]”. Disappointingly, this same proposal was presented to the ISO two years ago by the President, with no sign of implementation to date.

One of the suggested alternatives to make-up for this $250,000 was to recruit more international students. However, Ms. Whiteside pointed out that “...bringing in a student does not just bring revenue, it brings in costs as well”, and President Summerlee went on to illustrate the point that the average $4500/semester international student tuition does not cover the full cost for education, and left the students with the impression that the university has been covering for part of that cost. Contrary to this, in a correspondence from Provost Maureen Mancuso to Mr. Patrick Case of Human Rights and Equity Office (Feb 21st, 2005), international students were said to “...provide [the university] with badly needed income”. Contradicting comments such as this from different senior administrative members left the international students confused about the real situation.

What if the university eventually gets that ‘promised funding’ from the provincial government? President Summerlee commented that the revenue from the 5% increase would not be returned to the international students, “[because] you never know what would happen in the future”. In fact, when asked if international tuition would be considered for increase in 2006/7, Ms. Whiteside stated “I would be lying if I didn’t say yes”.

As an outcome from the forum, President Summerlee now proposes a 4% increase to international tuition, and lowering the additional financial aid to international students from $50,000 to $40,000. Ms. Whiteside writes in her correspondence to Li, “...[this] response is an attempt to address the financial concerns raised by international students within a very difficult fiscal environment”. But the ISO does not think this reduction is enough: “we appreciate and respect the reconsideration of President Summerlee. It was unfortunate that international students could not come up with feasible alternatives to the proposed tuition increase. But we are here to study, not to come up with budget solutions for the university — and we are not ready to be targeted as solutions to budget problems”.


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