WUSA supports tuition hike on international students, while GSA does not

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As tuition hikes for UW’s international students have gone ahead, the Graduate Student Association (GSA) and WUSA are offering two contrasting views on the recent increases.

GSA Vice President David Billedeau believes that tuition increases will negatively impact the financial well-being of UW’s international students.  

“Many parents of international graduate students have written directly to the President of the University of Waterloo Feridun Hamdullahpur in order to voice their concerns about increased tuition during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Billedeau noted.

“We believe that UWaterloo should not balance domestic tuition by raises to international student tuition, or by cutting financial support [of any form] to students,” Billedeau said.  

Billedeau pointed out that increasing tuition for people who have limited opportunities to earn an income “demonstrates a disconnect between the University’s fiscal plans and the financial well-being of our student community.”

WUSA, on the other hand, said they support the tuition increases for UW’s international students. Megan Town, WUSA’s Vice President Education pointed out that tuition increases are determined by the Board of Governors, well in advance of when they are implemented.  

“This is not a choice that the university made,” Town said.  

According to Town, demand, parity, government funding, operational costs, and inflation were all the factors that warranted  tuition increase.  

“As demand and inflation are expected to decrease in the coming months, I hope that tuition will respond accordingly for the next set of approvals,” Town said.

Billedeau disagrees with that premise. He explained that on April 25, the GSA launched a petition calling for tuition reduction for all students taking courses in the Spring 2020 term, due to the shift to fully online learning.  

Since then, the petition has roughly 2,000 supporters, Billedeau said. He added that at this time, the GSA is advocating for all UW students— domestic and international, graduate, and undergraduate.  

Town believes that a reduction in tuition is “simply not a feasible demand  from  the university.” She explained that with the government-mandated 10 per cent decrease in domestic tuition, the university budgets are tight enough, as they are.  

“Over 70 per cent of their expenses are salaries and benefits and the university is unwilling to lay-off any full-time staff or faculty. Ultimately, very little money is being saved from the campus closure – in fact, the university probably has more expenses as a result,” Town said.

Town agreed that the lockdown due to COVID-19 was an incredibly unpredictable situation.  

“We have heard feedback from international students struggling to pay tuition, rent, and other living expenses because of COVID-19,”  Town admitted.  

Town noted that WUSA’s Student Emergency Support Fund was specifically created to address those concerns.  

“We are also working with UW’s Student Awards & Financial Aid Office and asking them to make more of the alumni donations available to international students,”  Town said.

Town also noted that WUSA’s previous advocacy efforts have resulted in a predictable 5% increase in tuition for upper-year international undergraduate students (2A and higher).  “We hope that this predictability helps international students be prepared to pay their tuition,”  Town said.

Town had a message for UW’s international students.  “WUSA knows that international students are a valuable part of our vibrant community…  [and is] advocating on your behalf to the university and to the federal government to implement financial supports,”  Town said.

Town also said that WUSA has urged the federal government to include international students in CERB ( The Canada Emergency Response Benefit ) because they have the same expenses as domestic students and added that WUSA is also working with Student Awards & Financial Aid, asking them to expand the COVID-19 Student Support Fund’s availability to UW’s international students.  

Billedeau encouraged all students who are concerned about tuition costs to sign the GSA petition for tuition reduction, which is still accepting signatures.  

The petition website stated that “it is particularly important to note that international…  student tuition is increasing [ for the Spring ] term despite a shift to online learning.  Given that international students already pay significantly higher tuition, we call on the University of Waterloo to suspend the planned tuition hikes and reduce both domestic and international student fees.” 

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