Office Opinions: Student fee increases


While I tend to take a pessimistic, education-costs-in-this-country-will-keeping-going-up-no-matter-what-we-do view on the tuition hikes, it is especially upsetting to see the university reuse the same old ‘we’re-just-doing-this-to-meet-market-rates” excuse over and over again when it comes to housing prices on campus. Even if we put aside the fact that the university’s goal should be to provide more affordable housing to students so that they can focus their energy on their studies, we all know that it’s not that difficult to find a good place for less money in Vancouver.


If UBC intends on being the best in research and knowledge, they need to make the decision to pave the road for accessible education and set a new global standard. This means lower fees so students can continue to receive the best education from the best university.


When calculating the value of its average dorm room, UBC seemed to skip factoring in such details as decrepit shared bathrooms, near-fascist rules against decorating and the temporary nature of it all -- because who really knows for sure if they’ll get into rez again the next year? What trumps all that is the community and atmosphere that rez life offers, which apparently is so inherently precious that it makes dorm rooms equatable to one-bedroom or studio apartments off-campus. Last term we decided to start charging international students more money to cover the cost of the prestige of a UBC degree. What, now we’re charging students for the community they themselves foster, too?


In defence of the housing fee increase, UBC argues that the new rates are below or at par with "market value" in the residential areas near campus. This simply isn't true. While a 15 per cent increase might match up with what the average Vancouverite pays for rent, it certainly isn't reflective of what students are paying off-campus. The vast majority of students pay rates that are far cheaper than the average cost of rent in Vancouver. Judging from their calculations, UBC seems to believe that a typical UBC student is somebody who can afford to live alone in a studio apartment. UBC administrators are either out of touch with the demographics of the student body, lying to us, or both.


While it’s understandable that UBC wants more money, there doesn’t seem to be good justification behind the actual amount of the increases. 20 per cent is such a round number. I find it hard to believe a 19 per cent increase wouldn’t be enough and a 21 per cent increase would be excessive.


I can't say that I'm a fan of how UBC went about the housing (and tuition) increases, but it's too early to say whether or not their "market rates" argument is valid. If there's still a multi-thousand person wait list come March, the increases obviously weren't enough to drive away the market's demand and the (potential) fact that people are willing to pay a premium to live on campus. If there isn't a wait list, then UBC has some 'splainin' to do. Either way though, student fee increases of any sort are a move away from accessible education, it's important to not place the blame squarely on UBC's shoulders. Protest decreasing government funding as much or more than UBC's decisions on how to cope with it.