Thursday, October 5, 2023. I’m sitting at home, scrolling through my email after a long day of classes. It’s the usual. Ads from company newsletters I’d neglected to unsubscribe from, Canvas notifications reminding me of my upcoming assignments, and a single email from UBC systems:
‘Tuition proposal for 2024/25 is now available.”
I couldn’t help but sigh. This wasn’t the first time I’d received this kind of email during my time attending UBC. I had received two for the 2022/2023 tuition proposal during my first year, and one for the 2023/2024 tuition proposal in my second.
As part of UBC’s Tuition Consultation Policy, these yearly emails are designed to be a platform with which students can learn about and provide feedback on the University's planned tuition changes.
And yet, my sighs only grew deeper as I scanned over the page. The consultation itself is rather extensive, spanning a simplified overview of the school budget, a glance at how tuition fees are used to contribute to the student experience, and most importantly, just how much the University proposes to increase them for the upcoming school year.
The full consultation can be found here, but the point that many would focus on comes down to this:
The University proposes a 2% increase in tuition for all domestic students, and an increase of between 2% and 5% for international students, depending on the nature of their studies.
In times such as these, with increasing prices and the financial troubles of students looming as an ever present threat, it would be reassuring to hear that the campus community has a say in whether or not such an increase goes through. However, the prevailing attitude amidst the students that The Phoenix spoke to seems to be more…
“It’s stupid [to answer the survey]. They’re just going to increase it anyways.”
“Do we even really have a say? I took [the email] as not like, a suggestion by courtesy. Like they’re just kinda saying they’re gonna raise the tuition, but they’re asking just out of courtesy to see if [we’d] like it.”
None of the students I spoke to reported actually filling out the survey. They felt there’s no point to it. A consultation, such as the one conducted by UBC, doesn’t matter if the outcome is always the same. And, it usually is. In March 2021, The Phoenix covered the 2021/2022 consultation process in an article. What did we conclude back then?
Students believe tuition prices are too high.
Students don’t see their consultation being put into practice.
Students are frustrated.
In other words, the exact same sentiment we’re seeing today. We appear to be caught in a loop where the University consults the students on their plan to increase tuition, the students voice their dissent, and tuition costs are raised regardless. It happened in 2022/23. And 2021/2022. And in years before that. Consistently.
So, what avenue forward is there? As costs continue to rise for both the University and its students, the inevitable conflict between the need for the University to fund its programs and the need for students to be financially stable only continues to grow.
Well, some students believe another approach is in order.
“If I was [the administration], I would basically say [let’s talk]. Do you guys have any good ideas? … [it should be] more engaging. I think [right now] we’re sort of shutting students out.”
Is trying to boost direct engagement the right path forward? Is there any right path forward? It can be hard to discern. But, there must be something more than the seemingly fruitless yearly dance in which we’re caught. Something’s gotta give, or else apathy and frustration will only continue to grow.
It’s nearly inevitable.
If there’s any conclusion I may draw, it’s this: if you feel as if your voice isn’t being heard, this consultation is a chance to let the University know that. One of the questions asked in the survey is asking for suggestions as to how to improve the survey process for the future. Use the platform they have given you to let them know just how small it is.
Ultimately though, it’s up to you.
Once again, the UBC 2024/25 Tuition Consultation can be found by following this link. Submissions close on November 2, and included comments will be anonymously presented, verbatim, to the responsible Faculty and Board of Governors.