AMS campaign to oppose international tuition begins

With the Board of Governors vote on the proposed international tuition increases fast approaching, the AMS’s opposition campaign is kicking into gear.

Proposed international tuition increases range from 0-200 per cent. Should the Board of Governors vote in favour of the increase, the average incoming international student could expect to see their tuition fees go up by around 50 per cent.

A series of motions recently passed by the AMS have led to the three main arms of the AMS’s anti-tuition increase campaign that has been christened Afford UBC. These arms include the creation of a $20,000 fund to protest — of which any group protesting tuition increases is welcome to apply for a portion — attempts to reach out to alumni, and a campaign encouraging students to boycott UBC Food services. Arno Rosenfeld, a fourth-year political science student, has also been hired by the AMS to run the campaign.

Right now Rosenfeld says his main goal is to raise awareness among students of the tuition increases and the issues surrounding them — a task made more challenging by the time of year.

“We’re looking at a really tight time frame in terms of when the Board of Governors is making their decision and it’s a busy time of the year for students so a lot of other groups are busy with other things,” said Rosenfeld.

With this in mind, Rosenfeld plans to run booths offering free coffee and information at different locations around campus this week.

“The idea is to do this outreach now so that students are made aware of it and see that the AMS is doing stuff related to it,” said Rosenfeld. “Then when we try and do a larger event, people will already have some awareness of what’s going on, why it matters and will be more receptive to getting involved.”

The standing committees meeting of the Board of Governors convenes on November 24. Rosenfeld wants to hold at least one large event before then. The details for that will be determined, he explains, based on factors ranging from students’ schedules to the weather. Ideas for events range from panel talks to a trip to Victoria to get students' voices heard at a provincial level.

Provincial funding plays a relatively large role in both the proposal for international tuition increases and its opposition.

The Afford UBC campaign aims to tell UBC that rather than raising tuition to make up for loss of provincial money, the university should be more aggressive in acquiring provincial funding.

“My understanding is that they’ve been keeping [funding levels] steady, but inflation increases so the net result of that is a 2-3 per cent decrease in UBC’s provincial government funding every year,” said Rosenfeld.

Having said that, an increase in provincial funding on par with inflation will not give the university the same amount of money that they will gain by international tuition.

“We did the math and we think that over four years or five years – [once] you get every class of students paying the higher amount – it will be a substantial amount of money, but the university has said very clearly they don’t know where most of that money is going,” said Rosenfeld.

Twenty per cent of the money is slated towards going to the faculties, but what will happen to the other 80 per cent of the money is unclear. Rosenfeld says approximately 60 per cent is supposed to go to a slush fund for special projects, but what those special projects are is unknown.

Meanwhile, based on reactions at a booth set up by the International Students Association, students on campus are largely aware and upset about tuition increases, but confused as to why or how it is happening.

Second-year commerce student Allie Riley, who was running the booth, says that both she and students she has spoken to are interested in getting involved to protest the increases.

“I think there are definitely people willing to get more involved if given easy chances to. Things that work with their schedule — like the march around campus last year — that was really good. People could just jump in, jump out and it works with their schedules,” said Riley.

With a short window of time available, Rosenfeld hopes students will get informed and involved in the campaign. He also emphasizes the power students’ voices have.

“We just want to make it clear to board that there are 50,000 students telling them not to raise tuition,” said Rosenfeld. “I think that the Board of Governors cares a lot about this university and I just don’t think they’re going to directly go against the vast majority of the university community and decide to raise tuition over our objection.”