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Paying for tuition is tough, but for an international student, it’s seven times tougher

Being a international student in any country is already difficult on its own, the language and cultural difference make their lives very hard and adding to that, the huge difference between what a domestic student pays for tuition and what a foreign students does makes it even harder.

For international students like me, the dream of studying in a developed country is something that we all have in common. I can perfectly remember the day that my mom told me that we would move to Canada. I’ve never felt that excited in all my life, and I can assure you that I’m not the only one. If you’ve ever asked a student from another country where they dream to study, there is a high chance they said Canada. However, while known as one of the top countries for foreigners to live in, the seemingly-welcoming Canada is in fact not at all welcoming for the vast majority of would be international students. Why? International students pay college and university fees that far outstrip what their domestic peers pay–fees so high that only the most affluent are likely to afford them.

While tuition is already high for anyone, the cost of tuition for an international student could be triple or quadruple the cost of what a domestic student pays for it. At the University of British Columbia (UBC), for example, Canadian students pay $179.97 per-credit, while international students pay $1,306.58. This difference doesn’t only cause anger among foreigners. A Canadian student at my school who learned of the difference remarked, “It’s crazy! They are coming here to study! They shouldn’t pay more for it.”

The actual reason why this happens is not often discussed with students, leading to a variety of theories about it. Some think it’s has to do with managing the overall demographics of the schools and ensuring that Canadians have a place there. “I always thought that had something to do with since they are receiving education from outside their homeland they have to, I guess, pay more because they are taking away spots for students that are residents,” said a student to The Peak. Others think it’s only about the money. “I think it’s unfair because international students don’t have any benefit by paying more, and if the universities or colleges want more money they could provide more services for them.” said an international student currently living in Vancouver.

Not only they pay more, fees are also increasing at a higher rate for international students. An article by The Global and Mail states that the University of Victoria, for example, increased the undergraduate costs by 20% for new international students last year and proposed another 15% increase for the 2019-20 school year. “Without any form of regulation, institutions are able to increase tuition fees by whatever amount they want and with very little warning,” said Simka Marshall from the B.C. Federation of Students.

BC regulations limit tuition increases to 2% but that only applies to domestic students. So when schools need more income, they rely on international students’ tuition to make up the shortfall. The B.C. Federation of Students whats to change this and create a regulation that applies for international student to make it fair. They want to develop a new BC international education strategy to support those who can benefit from social, cultural and academic immigration.

Another major factor in the difference in tuition is that the government subsidizes education, providing post-secondary institutions with a significant portion of their operating costs. In 2015, 90% of the educational expenditure was public in Canada, meaning that the government subsidized almost all the education. The argument goes that since domestic students that pays taxes, they are the ones who should benefit the most from public funding.  

Scholarships, work-study opportunities and bursaries can offer help to international students in need of financial aid. In some cases, those kinds of opportunities are the only way for the students to acquire post-secondary schooling in Canada. One Brazilian student that always wanted to come to a more developed country said, “I really can’t afford it and the only reason why I’m going to study there next year is because of my scholarship.”

Foreign students come to Canada with high hopes and dreams, and sometimes those dreams are destroyed because of this difficulty in paying a high tuition price. The dream of a “perfect American life” like in the movies, with enough money to pay your bills and enjoy the good things that the country have to offer its only a Hollywood thing. “I came here thinking I would have a perfect life like in High School Musical, only with less music” said an international student from my school, laughing, “Obviously that didn’t happen, but I never thought that my real dreams would be so difficult to achieve because of the high tuition prices.”

The rise of the tuition prices for new international students makes it almost impossible for them to get into a university or college and maintain themselves there, a foreign student that wanted to come to Canada sadly said, “I was planning to go to university in Canada, but after I saw the prices my mind kind of changed. I can’t afford a life in another country with those prices.” Even with a university’s help, the tuition is not the only thing that a new student needs to pay unless they have a full scholarship, which is rare.

While studying in Canada may be a great opportunity, already high and still rising tuition costs make it a privilege few can afford. The foreign students that come to Canada are mostly from wealthy families, because only they can afford the high tuition prices. The actual question is: Is that a good or a bad thing for Canada? Having already privileged people coming here to study can be a really good thing economically speaking but don’t we want to give the opportunity to study in a more developed country to less privileged students? Canada is known as a country that give everyone the opportunity to be whatever they want to be. But the opportunity to study in Canada is not open to everyone.

Image: Michael/ Flickr

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