Chanting “Tuition is way too high. Why nine? Why nine?” and holding signs, UW students came out in support of the #Why9 movement to protest the nine per cent tuition increase for international students at the Feb. 22 senate meeting. The movement was started by the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group with the intention to rally greater support for international students and to confront the Board of Governors (BOG). </p>
At the meeting, undergraduate student senators presented the board with two motions. According to a post made on the #Why9 Facebook group by organizer Filzah Nasir, the first was to “recommend that the BOG reverse this year’s nine per cent fee increase and another [was] to look at a sustainable tuition framework.”
According to Feds VP education Stephane Hamade the sustainable tuition framework proposal would increase tuition by a predictable amount.
As an undergraduate student senate representative Allyson Francis explained, the framework would be “just a guarantee [of] the percentage that the students can expect their tuition to increase while they are here, so that way they can predict what budget they would need for their overall education.”
Despite the presence and testimonies of protestors, senate members voted no.
“We’re disappointed in the decision, obviously, but it’s not unexpected, so we said that our goal is to get this fee increase reversed by April,” Nasir said. “There was a really strong turnout and a lot of students are disappointed in the [administration’s] decision to not listen to them and respect what they were asking for and they want to take this further.”
Prior to the senate vote, Mugue Kiragu, a fourth-year science international student, addressed the senate members with the challenges international students would face with the increase.
“What improvements in quality should international students expect to receive from being the target of a fee increase that is four times the rate of inflation. For many of us, the reputation of the school that we attend grows higher and higher with tuition fees,” Kiragu said. “I think when you’re benchmarking Waterloo’s degree to another degree, I think it’s important for us to learn why you think it’s valued so highly, and I think part of the value is not just how [international students] perceive the value, but it’s also how we experience the value.”
He then explained that tuition increases for international students can be especially compromising for those who have to leave UW due to increased tuition. With each move, they must navigate the bureaucracy found within the Canadian government. It can also be challenging to match UW’s specific program and credits at other institutions.
Mainly, he is optimistic for further communication between the university and international students.
“The communication aspect was going to be the best thing that comes out of it, so [it is unfortunate that] the motion was defeated because price shocks are never a good thing,” Kiragu said.
Nasir hopes to meet in upcoming weeks to further discuss how students want to address the tuition increase.
“The goal is to let the university know that we’re not letting go of this. We’re not going to because there’s no guarantee that they won’t do this again next year and that the year after that.”