Feds Students’ Council hopes stance brings predictability for international students

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In their latest meeting on May 24, Feds students&rsquo; council passed a stance which expressed concern and opposition against the administration&rsquo;s decision to increase international student tuition by 9.2 per cent, which came into effect this spring term.</p>

The council’s stance comes two months after the 9.2 per cent increase — higher than both the provincial (6.2 per cent) and national (5.3 per cent) average increases in international tuition — was made public.

“We had been talking to the provost about his communication efforts. It was something we did raise as a concern. We had talked to him about that in particular, but we felt like the issue was becoming a bigger and bigger issue, and more and more important to students,” Feds vice-president education Stephane Hamade said about the two-month delay. “It was something we were looking into and gathering feedback on.”

The motion passed by council included a call to regulate international tuition within the existing Ontario Tuition Framework, which currently only applies to domestic student tuition.

The motion goes on to stipulate that tuition should be “equal to the government and tuition revenue generated for a comparable domestic student, plus additional costs associated with educating these students.”

Also included in the motion was a call for predictable increases and for the creation of needs-based financial support for international students by UW.

Since the motion passed, Feds met with Ian Orchard, UW VP academic and provost, to discuss international student tuition and council’s motion. While the provost did not commit to anything, Hamade said that Orchard  “was supportive of the idea of predictability.” 

“I am hoping that it is something that we are able to work with the university on and see implementation on something that will give more predictability to international students on their tuition,” Hamade said.

Orchard said via email he appreciates "the thought that has gone into these motions."  

"We will assess the proposal to create a framework for international student tuition and continue to work closely with [the] Federation of  Students," Orchard added. "We evaluate tuition levels for all students on an annual basis and make changes as necessary to reflect the cost and value of a University of Waterloo degree."

When pressed as to what predictability might look like, Hamade said, “potentially a framework where a student, once they arrive here, they know how much their tuition will be changing over the next few years.”

According to Hamade, the needs-based scholarships — included in the motion — are to come from UW’s budget, not the provincial government.

“I think that the needs-based aspect is not particularly money from the provincial government, but money that the university could find to make sure that those who are most qualified are able to attend the University of Waterloo because of the significant benefits to the university as a whole and to their fellow students,” he said.

However, according to Orchard, in 2013-2014 academic year the university gave $5,179,688 in scholarship money to international undergraduate students — which represents 30 per cent of UW's total expenditure on scholarships. In addition, those students in second year or above, who are able to demonstrate "exceptional" or "unexpected" financial circumstances, are eligible to receive financial assistance from the International Full-Time Undergraduate Emergency bursary. The university handed out $388,200 in bursaries during 2013-2014 to students who qualified. 

With that being said, when asked if there were any concerns with the money coming from other students for the needs-based scholarship suggested in the policy, Hamade said that council would look to put together a more specific policy later to advocate to the administration.

“I think council was interested in the possibility that those who are in the most need be able to access university,” he said. “I think it is most important just to see that we are supportive of them, and I think [where the money will come from] is something we will have to look into deeper. It’s a start with this stance and I think we are going to be looking into making a little bit of a stronger, more robust policy attached to this.”

As to what the province’s role could be on this issue, Hamade said he’d like the government to mandate predictability for international students, but is not sure if it’s really at the top of their priority list.  

“I’m not sure if its something that the provincial government will be looking at,” Hamade said. “That’s why we went through the route of working with the university to achieve predictability for international students. We felt it was the best avenue.”

This article has been edited since publication to include Ian Orchard's comments.