International students left frustrated after UBC reinstates on-campus quarantine fees

UBC Housing has started charging students again for quarantine accommodations, which may impede the plans of international students returning to campus.

Since March 1, Student Housing and Community Services (SHCS) has charged students between $45 and $79 a day for self-isolation accommodations at Walter Gage. The 14-day quarantine package had been free for all students since last August.

“It’s not something that we could afford as an institution to continue to do without recovering costs,” Andrew Parr, associate vice president of SHCS, said.

UBC spent over two million dollars providing the service to students who required self-isolation, according to Parr.

While the full fee is $79, UBC will also offer a subsidized rate of $45 per day based on need. The subsidy will be offered to all students at the time of reservation.

“UBC is doing everything we can, I would say, to address affordability, including things like this subsidy to keep the costs at as low as possible while recognizing our budget limitations,” said Parr.

Parr added that 87 per cent of students at the Vancouver campus have accepted the subsidy so far. This means the rate most students are paying is actually lower than the fee listed on UBC Housing’s website.

Still, the policy change raises concerns for international students planning their return to campus in the fall.

As of now, Canadian law requires anyone entering the country to self-isolate for a 14-day period. Those entering by air must spend the first three days of this two week period in a government-approved hotel, of which accommodations at UBC are not included.

UBC and other BC post-secondary institutions expect that some of these travel restrictions may still be in place in the fall.

Tejsai Tagore, a second year business and computer science major currently in India, was planning to be back on campus in early May for his co-op term but was unable to come due to the current travel ban on flights from India and Pakistan. He expressed concerns over the burden that international students will have to bear with the reinstated self-isolation fees.

“We have to pay higher fees, and then again pay for the quarantine facilities at UBC, which I find quite ridiculous,” he said.

“Coming from UBC, I don’t think that was a very wise decision just to say that it’s going to be in-person without considering the other restrictions involved.”

Tagore acknowledges that the 14-day isolation is compulsory, but is unhappy with the change in fees.

“Given a choice, instead of paying 80 bucks and staying at UBC, I would just stay at a hotel,” he said.

Increased demand for housing

This year, UBC Housing opened up most of Walter Gage residence for quarantine accommodations because of the low demand in housing. However, Parr anticipates the demand to rise significantly closer to September, resulting in limited space for quarantine facilities.

They plan to downsize to 164 rooms in the new Pacific Residence — 28 less than what is offered now — as Walter Gage transitions to accommodate returning students.

UBC is also working on arrangements with near-by hotels to solicit spaces for students for “as favorable rates as possible,” according to Parr.

“But, early indications is it's going to be significantly more expensive than the 45 or 79 that we are offering at UBC, just by nature of how the hotels are working,” he said.