Tuesday, February 20, 2024. I’m sitting at my desk, typing away at an assignment I’d decided to do over the reading break. It’s nothing interesting, mostly checking sources and stringing together ideas for a paper I’d be writing later in the term. The kind of thing that bores you more than annoys you. I’m looking for a distraction. And I get one, in the form of a single email from UBC systems:

“Important information about 2024/25 fees.”

I had been waiting for an email like this for a while now. It was an email I received once every year since first attending UBCO, and I have the distinct feeling I’ll continue to receive them for as long as I keep attending. With mixed feelings of trepidation and curiosity, I clicked open the email, and took a look at just how much tuition would be increasing:

2% increase for all domestic undergraduate and graduate students.

2% increase for continuing international graduate students in research and standard programs.

3% increase for continuing international undergraduate and graduate students in programs with specialized rates.

5% tuition increase for new international undergraduate students, and graduate students in programs with specialized rates.

5% increase for international unclassified, qualifying, visiting, access, and auditing students.

2% increase also applies to all mandatory fees.

This was about what was expected. Back in October, I wrote an article for The Phoenix about the tuition consultation process, and how UBC handled it both this year and in years prior. For the 2024/25 school year, the university had proposed an increase of two per cent for domestic students, and an increase of between two to five per cent for international students. We can see that reflected exactly in the final decision made, which is both unsurprising and ultimately more than a little disappointing.

The conclusion I’d come to during the consultation process wasn’t to do with budgets or the increases themselves, but more to do with how students reacted to the consultation process as a whole. The most common feeling I had gathered from the students I’d asked about the university’s efforts to gauge support for the increases was apathy. People didn’t think that their voices really meant anything in the decision to increase the tuition. Whether that is actually true or not is unclear, but with the final tuition raises being exactly in line with the initial proposal, it can be hard to believe student voices have had any impact at all.

When asked about the tuition increase being implemented as proposed after the email went out, the students I talked to maintained that same apathy:

“It's upsetting, but it's not surprising. It's just one of those things.”

More and more, students are finding it difficult to engage charitably with the consultation process. As part of their release announcing the tuition increase, UBC included a document containing a budget breakdown of the fees involved, as well as the results of the tuition consultation. 

Included in this document is the feedback provided by the student body during the tuition consultation process. There are hundreds of responses available to half a dozen questions, but even a quick overview will demonstrate a similar apathy and frustration among respondents:

“Filling out this form feels futile--as regardless of what we say you WILL pass this tuition increase. Regardless of the amount of suffering and financial hardship that this will cause.”

“actually listen to us?”

“I have filled out this form every year. I have been met with an tuition increase every year. If this is not the definition of apathy, I'm not sure what is.”

The pattern repeats. UBC consults the student body, the student body pushes back, and ultimately, the increase goes through anyway. 

I suggest looking through the document included in the email if you can, the quotes here are only a tiny portion of what’s been said about the process. There are hundreds, if not thousands of responses from students in both Vancouver and the Okanagan, all looking to share their thoughts on what should be done.

The question is, are they being heard?

So far, the answer seems to be a rather resounding no.