Welcome to Canada, now pay up

By Katy Anderson

International students may have to get a few more part-time jobs next year.

Although the Alberta government has confirmed it will once again pay the cost of tuition increases next year for Canadian students, the tuition hold will not apply to international students–and starting next year it will cost them even more to attend the University of Calgary.

The U of C Board of Governors voted last month to increase the international student differential tuition ratio from 2.5 to 3 times what Canadian-born students pay–meaning average international student tuition and fees will cost nearly $15,000 per year, according to International Student Centre Director Glynn Hunter.

“Personally I don’t think it’s fair to differentiate between someone from Ontario and someone from China, it goes against equality,” said Hunter. “But because of the increase in demand for international education, numbers are growing every year. The university’s decision to charge more than the provincial minimum will not effect growth. International students look to price as a benchmark for quality. Quality perception is that more money means better.”

Hunter noted the increase will only apply to new students as of September 2006. Current international student rates have been grandfathered at the 2.5 level. He also said the increases will move the U of C into the “middle of the pack” compared with other Canadian universities.

U of C Vice-President Finance and Services Mike McAdam explained that because international students are not paying taxes there is more of a drive to recover some of that cost.

“The university raised international student costs for three reasons: market demand, the cost of the program and market comparison,” he said.

A Czech Republic student who came to Canada not only for the adventure and the challenge, but to be close to her family, said she was ecstatic when she heard the province was paying for tuition increases because for her the tuition increase will mean a difference of $600 a year. She was disappointed to hear the tuition hold will not affect her.

“It had never occurred to me that we would be excluded,” said the third year nursing student, who did not feel comfortable revealing her name. “I’m not trying to complain about paying tuition, it’s just the way they excluded us which makes a big difference in our day to day lives.”

Alberta Advanced Education Ministry spokesperson Angela Balec said international students should pay higher tuition because they are not citizens of Alberta.

“Neither they nor their families contribute to the provincial tax base, so paying higher tuition is one way to ensure that international students pay a reasonable share of the actual cost of their education,” she said.

According to Statistics Canada, in 2004 there were 10,976 international students in Alberta who on average spend between $20,000 to $30,000 on tuition, fees and living expenses.

“International students bring global diversity to the classroom and serve as ambassadors to our province when they return home with a network of friendships and experiences,” said Balec. “Marketing Alberta as an educational destination of choice in the world builds on our international reputation as a world class provider of educational goods and services.”

Balec denied the possibility that since international students can’t vote the government may feel less accountable to them.

“I feel it is our responsibility as students to say what needs to be said,” the anonymous student explained. “Although we will be finished in a few years time, every year gets harder and 10 years down the road it will be even less realistic for a student to come to Canada.”

There have also been concerns that international students are not able to work off campus in Alberta. The federal government ran a pilot program in three provinces giving students the opportunity to work off campus in 2004 and deemed it a success. The government of Canada and the provincial government signed an agreement in September to give students that freedom here in Alberta, but plans are now on hold because of the election.