Board of Governors Finance Committee recommends tuition increases despite overwhelming student disapproval

The Board of Governors is one step closer to approving tuition increases.

On April 7, the Board of Governors Finance Committee recommended tuition and fee increases for full Board approval, despite over 90 per cent of students indicating in the tuition consultation survey that they opposed increases.

UBC launched a survey on January 25 to seek students’ opinion on the proposed two per cent and two-to-four per cent tuition increases for domestic and international students, respectively. The consultation closed on February 26 with 5,883 students respondents — a 10.9 per cent increase from last year.

VP Students Ainsley Carry presented the results of the tuition consultation survey at the committee meeting.

93 per cent of undergraduate students said they either somewhat disagree, disagree or highly disagree with the tuition raise — 94 per cent of graduate students said the same.

For Okanagan and Vancouver campuses, 90 per cent and 92 per cent of students, respectively, said they somewhat disagree, disagree or strongly disagree. This was echoed in domestic and international student responses as 90 and 93 per cent of students disagreed with the proposed tuition increase, respectively.

Students also answered an open-ended question on why they don’t want a tuition increase.

42 per cent of students said they didn’t want an increase because of the impact of COVID-19, 30 per cent cited financial strain, 27 per cent said they feel they’re not getting value for money and 15 per cent said tuition and fees are already too high.

For Okanagan students, COVID-19 impact remained at number one, while the second and third factors were swapped.

Students were also asked to rank priority funding areas. If tuition increases are approved, the university will bring in $18 million in revenue, and it has pledged to put that to student priorities.

49 per cent of UBC Okanagan students and 46 per cent of UBC Vancouver students ranked financial aid first. Both campuses ranked cost of living second.

For their third choice, Vancouver students narrowly prioritized programs and services for hybrid learning over delivery for hybrid teaching; Okanagan students narrowly picked the latter.

Carry said if the increases are approved, $8 million will go towards student financial aid, $2.4 million into cost of living and $7.6 million towards delivery of hybrid learning and student programs and services.

“These categories and the amounts allotted … are not locked into stone,” Carry said. “There’s some flexibility there if we needed to add more or add less.”

Carry said the university has begun a process to define affordability and the barriers to accessing student aid. He said they are hoping to implement a "comprehensive affordability plan" by the end of the year.

At the meeting, UBC Okanagan faculty representative John Klironomos said he “struggles” with the decision to increase tuition as he understands the need to fund the university, but students are also struggling due to the pandemic.

“I recognize that we are in the habit of raising tuition every year,” he said,” but if there was one year where the optics of not raising tuition would be ideal, it would be this year … just from the point of view of trying to show some empathy for society as a whole.”

The full Board will vote on the increases on Monday, April 19.