90% of students said they opposed a tuition increase. The Board of Governors Finance Committee recommended it anyway

UBC students could once again see their tuition increased next year.

On March 22, the Board of Governors (BoG) Finance Committee voted to recommend a two per cent increase in tuition for domestic students and continuing international students and a four per cent increase for new international students for full Board approval following a presentation that 90 per cent of surveyed students oppose the proposed increase.

The full Board will vote on the tuition increase proposal at its meeting tomorrow morning.

In accordance with Policy LR4, UBC sent a survey to students on January 19.

Among the 90 per cent of students who oppose the proposed increases — 4,667 students responded in total — most cited financial difficulties they would suffer with higher tuition and that tuition is already too high. Students also pointed to concerns regarding COVID-19, specifically around the significant financial strain the pandemic has put on people.

These reasons for opposition were shared between domestic and international students, with the exception of the difference in costs between domestic and international students: 68 per cent of international students selected this response compared with only 23 per cent of domestic students.

From the two options the nine per cent of students who agree with the proposed tuition increases were able to select, 65 per cent selected that they were “satisfied with the rationale and data” and 58 per cent selected that they were “satisfied with the level of investments in student support, academics, and the student experience.” Students also pointed to inflation as a reason they agreed with the proposed increase in a comment box.

One per cent of students said they were unsure.

“This has been very consistent with the data that we have received in the past … so we have not received any new information,” said VP Students Ainsley Carry during his presentation on the survey results to the Finance Committee.

Provost and VP Academic Andrew Szeri said the tuition increases were reasonable when compared to other Canadian universities and given UBC’s high Times Higher Education rankings.

He added that the tuition increases were needed from a financial viewpoint.

“There's an alternative to a modest tuition increase, and that is no tuition increase,” he said. “And of course that would prolong COVID[-19] impacts. And the budgetary stresses that the university is currently experiencing, would delay our investments in the academic mission and further improvements in student life and infrastructure.”

In a letter sent to the Board, AMS VP Academic and University Affairs Eshana Bhangu and AMS President Cole Evans said the student society was opposed to the proposed tuition increase and disappointed with the consultation process.

“A 2% increase to the tuition of continuing and domestic and international students may not appear to be a significant premium to some, but a quick glance at the existing financial concerns of UBC students demonstrates that any increase to tuition will have a drastic impact on general student wellness,” the pair wrote.

Bhangu and Evans also called attention to the University of Toronto’s ability to adapt to a ten per cent decrease in domestic tuition for the 2019-2020 academic year as well as a freeze for the next year.

“If the University of Toronto is able to positively respond to a shock to the budget as such, an equally leading institution like ours must have the calibre and care to make similar efforts.”

The University of Toronto was one of the institutions Szeri discussed in his presentation.

“We sincerely hope that members of the Board of Governors choose to act with compassion and generosity and vote no to tuition increases.”