Letter: You're angry about the international tuition increase for the wrong reasons

There are two good reasons to be mad about the proposed tuition increase for future international students and they probably aren’t the reasons you’re angry.  

Increases to international tuition are never going to affect anyone who doesn’t opt into having it affect them. The increase is not retroactive — it only affects new students.  If a prospective international student feels that UBC’s new international tuition rates are more than they’re willing or able to pay, they can go elsewhere. If UBC is too expensive, there are comparable institutions all over the world. Some of them are cheaper and probably objectively better places to get your degree. Contrast this to the previous 20 per cent hike to the price of eight-month residence.  It affected people without a choice — current students. If you want to live on campus for eight months, you pay what UBC tells you to. Prospective international students can carefully weigh the pros and cons of coming to UBC and make a decision.

The first good reason to be angry is that the Board of Governors — an institution mandated to be self-interested — can make these decisions with little to no input from UBC’s biggest stakeholders: current students. But if you’re angry that the BoG is pretty crappy, getting mad about a decision that has already been made seems unlikely to be a good way to affect change. Talk to your dean, talk to local politicians, talk to the AMS, talk to your student senators and BoG reps — let them know that this is something you care about. Deal with the root cause, not a symptom.  

The second reason to be angry is that you’re worried about what the increase will do to the diversity of the student body at UBC. UBC has said that they don’t know what increased international tuition will do to diversity, but it seems reasonable to assume that the average international student is going to come from a more affluent background. But let’s say that your friend came up to you and told you that, because they’re worried about the diversity of the student body, they’re demanding that UBC keep tuition rates artificially low. You’d think they were crazy. Asking UBC to keep tuition low for everyone, when you’re concerned about the ability of a small subset of everyone to afford it, doesn’t make sense. Demanding that UBC offers more bursaries or variable rates of tuition depending on the student’s ability to pay makes sense.  

If you want to bring about some sort of change, first figure out what it is that you actually want to change. Knee-jerk reactions don’t help anyone and that’s been almost all of what I’ve seen from individual students to supposedly well-organized groups. No one has put forward viable alternatives and no one has asked for a study on how this will actually affect the diversity of campus. Or, if they have, they’ve been drowned out by incoherent cries of how unfair this is and how awful UBC is. This isn’t an instance of an evil corporation gleefully rubbing its hands together because they’ve discovered another way to squeeze money out of helpless customers. UBC needs money. Even if international tuition rates were kept low, UBC won’t be better-governed or more diverse. Ask yourself what’s actually important to you and focus on that as opposed to jumping on the latest bandwagon because everyone else is outraged too.  

John Harvey is a fifth-year engineering physics student.