Sitting in my zoom class one afternoon, my teacher's screen freezes before she gets disconnected. At this point, nobody in the class blinked an eye when this happened - it was a common occurrence. Waiting for the teacher to log back on, a student in the chat expressed that the university needs to better support teachers with these technical difficulties, or at least supply adequate wifi routers. Another joined in and said that if they had to pay full tuition for online schooling, the least the university could do is allocate resources to professors to make their lives (and the students) much easier online. This created a catalyst as students feverishly typed away, expressing their frustration with tuition prices, the proposed increase, and how they believed their funds were not being properly allocated.
As this occurrence represents, tuition continues to be a huge concern among students. UBC’s annual tuition increase in particular is the cause of much frustration. Unfortunately, the school year of 2021/22 will likely prove no different as the tuition consultation is proposing a possible tuition increase of 2% for domestic students and a 2%-4% increase for international students.
A tuition consultation is a consultation on proposed increases to tuition for the upcoming school year. According to the definition provided by the university, “this consultation seeks to provide current students with a look at the university's considerations when deciding upon how tuition fees are determined, as well as with the extraordinary circumstances brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
UBC maintains that this increase is essential given the ongoing pandemic. The tuition will propose to invest more in supporting the transition to online instruction by “hiring additional teaching assistants, technology rovers, Student Learning Hub supports, and online learning coaches.” They will also increase student financial support by including additional emergency bursary funding and “free self-isolation housing and services for incoming out-of-country students.”
Despite these justifications, many students remain against the increase in tuition fees. In the 2020/21 tuition consultation report (page 5), students were asked “please rate your level of agreement with the proposed tuition increase, based on the rationale provided.” Even though the university had provided their rationale for the increase in fees, 90% of everyone who responded selected “Strongly Disagree”, “Disagree”, or “Somewhat Disagree” with these rationales.
When asked to elaborate on why they do not approve of the increase, results showed the top three reasons. 88% of students who responded selected “Fees and tuition already cost too much”, 75% selected “A higher tuition would worsen my current financial strain”, and 65% selected “The tuition increase would result in less people being able to access higher education.” Finally, when asked if tuition has caused financial stress, the results showed that 90% of respondents said “A great deal of financial stress”, “Quite a bit of financial stress”, or “Some financial stress” at 33%, 30%, and 27%, respectively.
The 2018/2019 and the 2017/2018 reports show similar trends, with 92% against the increase and 85% respectively. As represented, the majority of students who responded in previous years were against the increase and many even stated that tuition already causes them some degree of financial stress. However, the tuition was still increased in previous years, and it will likely be the same for the upcoming school year.
Even though the tuition increase persists annually, UBC maintains that they take student feedback into account. In the 2021/22 consultation, it states,
“Student feedback from the tuition consultation process always influences the UBC budget decisions and allocations. Last year, UBC was able to provide additional investments in Jumpstart, Work Learn research and off-campus positions, Graduate Student Fellowships, and support for Indigenous scholarships, as prioritized by students.”
The increase in tuition fees remains a contentious topic with the university stating they require the funds and the majority of students being against the increase. However, the final decision comes down to the Board of Governors who will decide the course of action in April. Perhaps the seemingly annual tradition of an increase in tuition will be broken this coming year.