The AMS is opposing all proposed tuition and fees increases put forward by UBC for next year.
While the society has usually pushed back against tuition hikes beyond the two per cent domestic cap — such as international tuition raises — because of its affordability policy, it is also now advocating against increases within the cap.
AMS VP Academic and University Affairs Max Holmes attributed the society’s stance partly to the university’s “lack of effort” in responding to student’s overwhelming opposition to the increases.
Out of 1,799 responses in last year’s consultation, 92 per cent were against the proposed raises.
“If the university is going to increase tuition and negatively affect the lives of students and their ability to afford to go to this university by increasing tuition, then UBC need to tell students how they’re going to benefit from this increase,” he said.
In a submission to the Board of Governors, Holmes noted the AMS’ 2018 Academic Experience Survey shows that only 22 per cent of students agree that UBC cares about their thoughts on the cost of education, stressing the importance for the university to be responsive.
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The AMS also argued this year’s tuition consultation was not “transparent enough.”
Holmes said the society did not receive budget models showing how increasing or maintaining the same tuition and fee levels would impact UBC and its faculties, despite repeated requests. He added that these numbers should be publicly available so all community members can understand the comprehensive effects of the hikes.
“The AMS wants to see the numbers, students should be able to see the numbers,” Holmes said, “… and until they do that, they cannot call this a transparent consultation process.”
The society has also been calling for a “public long-term enrolment plan” from UBC since last year to better understand how the university calculates revenue and addresses over-enrolment.
“There were so many issues that the AMS brought up last year and we have not seen enough progress on those issues,” he said. “And so we’re opposing the increase because if we’re going to have this tuition consultation every year, there needs to at least be progress year to year.”
UBC VP Finance Peter Smailes and interim VP Students Andrew Parr said in emailed statement that the university is “considering the AMS submission and all student feedback,” but declined to say more.
“As the decision on how to proceed will ultimately rest with the Board of Governors and UBC has yet to make a final submission on this matter, it would be inappropriate to comment further,” they wrote.
Whether or not the increases are approved, the AMS hopes its opposition will spark a “serious conversation” about affordability.
“The AMS hopes that this will be an opportunity for both the Board of Governors and the university administration to reflect [and] realize that they are not doing enough to address the issues of affordability,” Holmes said.
He added the society will continue its broad advocacy on the issue, such as expanding open educational resources, exploring Excellence Fund allocations and maintaining a cap on price increase for some campus housing units.
Smailes and Parr acknowledged that “costs of a university education in Canada can be challenging,” especially in cities with high housing costs like Vancouver.
In particular, they said UBC has been offering “extensive financial supports,” with more than 16,000 students receiving $87.2 million in funding support in 2017/18. The university is also projected to offer 14,500 on-campus beds by 2022 and has room to build up to 18,000 beds, which would make it “one of the largest providers of student housing in North America.”
Looking ahead to next year’s consultation, the AMS aims to have a seat at the table to discuss the increases before they are decided upon.
“One of the issues that we currently have is that the income increases are proposed in their final form to students — it’s not a conversation,” Holmes said.