UW’s tuition hike during a pandemic is inappropriate, especially for International Master’s students

Graphic by Riley Stevens

Like every year, all the current undergraduate and graduate University of Waterloo students will see a tuition hike in 2020-21. 

International Master’s students will pay about $1,550 more in Spring 2020 than they did in the Winter term.

New students will generally face higher tuition increases than those currently enrolled in programs at the university.

These dramatic increases came at a particularly inappropriate time. As international student fees are almost three times the domestic rate.

A five per cent increase would impose extra financial stress on Master’s students, many of whom are already under the poverty line.

The university has chosen to hike tuition during this pandemic, as if life were business as usual. Now that classes are online and all buildings are closed, students won’t be using the campus infrastructure.

Tuition doesn’t go towards just the direct costs of teaching but also to non-academic purposes. With the campus building closed, students won’t be using the university’s world class infrastructure, like labs, for which they are paying for with their tuition. 

Why should students pay for the maintenance when they do not use it? You don’t keep paying for gas if your car is out of commission.

Students chose UW because of its reputation and decided to pay a premium price for a world class experience, student interaction and use of world class facilities and industry exposure.

The university claims that 

  • Transitioning to remote delivery does not change academic integrity and quality learning experience.
  • Online medium does not affect the standard to which that education is held.

Most of the students have had a chance of experiencing online classes for a month and they can already see that the experience is nowhere near the same as the in class experience.

They have seen professors cancelling the classes because of technical difficulties or the professors are ill prepared.

The increase in financial aid is mostly directed towards undergrads and research-based students while most of the high tuition fee is contributed by course-based Master’s who don’t receive financial aid.

This will affect their productivity, and their mental health. Some students cannot continue their programs because they have already budgeted for the whole program.

College students are not immune to the impact of this increase. The students who began at UW in Fall 2019 and Winter 2020 did not get a chance to earn $5,000 and were disqualified from the CERB.

They may have also not had the time to work the minimum of 420 to 700 hours required to go on EI.

International Master’s students will be disproportionately affected by UW’s tuition increase.. They might be happy with their life today with the education they are receiving, but it’s unfortunate that they will be paying for it many years after graduation.

What we have seen is a lack of meaningful consultation of students by the university. The GSA stated that they are trying to advocate the student tuition fee but university decision-makers seemingly ignored student leaders’ feedback at the meetings with university administration.


  1. Its not good for UW to increase Tuition fees at this unprecedented times. Already parents are struggling with job loss and pay reductions. Being a father of International student who is expecting to join his son to UW in CS program. First year fees has been increased 12% almost from 54,500 to CAD 61000. Its a very steep rise. UW is becoming unreachable slowly for international students. Would request management to at least dont increase the fees this year of pandemic. I hope board of trustees at UW listen to international parents request and pull back fees rise.


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