Op-ed: UBC's vague language obscures the facts

The proposal for international student tuition increase, which will raise international tuition by 62 per cent over three years, does not provide specific or accurate reasons for the increase.

UBC has every right to raise tuition. However, if they are going to, we as students deserve to actually know why. The proposal says tuition will be increased because our tuition is below that of peer institutions and this limits UBC’s pursuit of “excellence."

First of all, UBC’s international tuition is not well below that of our peer institutions in all cases. The tuition for an international undergraduate art student at McGill has an tuition averaging $15,000 — about $10,000 less than they would at UBC.

Although University of Toronto has a higher international tuition, the student body is only 17 per cent international students compared to UBC’s 21.4 per cent. Of course, this tuition-diversity correlation cannot be taken as a cause for lower diversity. However, one could imagine that higher tuition would deter international students according to simple economic theory — pricier things are purchased in less quantity. 

Diversity enhances learning much more than prestige. Is having the same tuition as a “peer institution” worth the risk of loss of the international students that make UBC unique? 

The benchmarking system of tuition increases are based on analyzing the difference between what a student would have paid at a more expensive university and UBC. 

However, why students chose UBC is not at all considered in this process of benchmarking. It could be that the students did not choose the other universities because they were too expensive. Therefore, it would be taking advantage of some people’s willingness to pay while excluding others who will not be able to afford the higher tuition. 

From the tuition increases, UBC will be collecting $103 million in additional revenue over the next three year. According to the report, $62.8 million will be allocated towards Strategic Investment Funding, which include “principles of excellence, nimbleness, accountability and transparency.” This is poetic language to coerce the reader rather than actually explain the direction of the investments. Saying that it will be a transparent investment is ironic as it literally doesn’t explain where the money will go. It provides no concrete investment plans or reasons for their necessity.

By contrast, only $20.4 million will be going towards faculties, which is another example of a vague allocation. Which faculties will receive funding? Will we be building new research facilities? Increasing professor salaries? Creating new resources? How will the allocation of money actually be benefitting our education? It is all unclear. 

Administrative Units will receive 10.7 per cent where it will be distributed to the vice presidents to support their priorities. These priorities include “library systems, experiential learning and summer work learn opportunities,” which all sound like straightforward, positive initiatives. But once again, how exactly they will be enhanced remains unexplained.

Out of all the additional revenue, only 7.5 per cent will be allocated to Student Financial Support.

Excellence is only a buzzword with no actual content or plan explaining how the additional funds will benefit the university. Excellence alone doesn’t create a good learning environment. What actually does create a good learning environment is diversity, caring professors and an involved and thoughtful student body. Prestige is just a label — not a direction for improvement.

For the sake of UBC and the sake of future students, we need our voices to be heard. Don’t let UBC choose prestige over diversity and don’t let them provide information with only buzzwords that give hollow information. This is our education —not an advertisement.

Sivan Spector is a second-year arts student and a staff writer at The Ubyssey.