Like many students, I read the email about tuition increases with a healthy dose of dread in my heart. A lot of students (including myself a couple of weeks ago) don’t know what factors into a raise in tuition prices, so I sat down with our Associate Vice President, Students, Dale Mullings, to talk about why we have tuition increases, what they’re for, and how we as students can have a say in what gets funded. Read all the highlights below.
Why do we have tuition increases?
There are a few factors to this one, but they mainly boil down to:
- Inflation: if UBC didn’t have increases, the University would either have to increase the number of student admissions or reduce the level of service in order to meet rising costs.
- Investing in the UBCO experience: the University is developing new programs, designing new buildings, and improving existing services to make our campus better.
How does UBC decide where to invest money from tuition increases?
There are a lot of consultations that happen at varying levels, ranging from UBC leadership to consultations with students. The following areas are considered when determining where to invest:
Evaluating the current position
Some of the money from the tuition increases goes to maintaining and improving the supports that are already in place. An example of this would be the Arts Lobby redesign back in September.
The SUO puts forth a list of priorities for improvement based on feedback they’ve received from students.
Each year, a tuition consultation survey goes out to all students. This helps determine and rank priority areas, as well as identifies where student concerns lie.
Where does the money from tuition increases go?
The tuition increases are aligned closely to improve and address the priority areas identified by students. The biggest issues we hear about are student housing and food security, which are our top two issues. Here’s a summary of some of the areas the tuition increases will be addressing:
We’re developing an on-campus housing strategy to support more student residences. In addition to on-campus housing, we also need to explore different types of affordable housing.
A food hub will be launched this year so that students in residence can take advantage of an all-you-can-eat dining plan. Another goal is to have lower-cost foods available to students for purchase, some quick grab-and-go foods, and tons of education opportunities and workshops on how to shop affordably and cook healthy meals on a budget.
We want to ensure all students feel supported and welcome on campus. Some investment areas this year include creating a Black Resource Centre, supporting Indigenous students, and ensuring more representation for students in marginalized communities.
Access to funding
The plan is to offer more student scholarships, bursaries and awards to help combat financial strain. In the past year, $2.8 million has been distributed for student awards, bursaries, and financial aid—an amount that was invested directly from last year’s tuition increase.
UBC is working to create more opportunities for student jobs on- and off-campus, including more funding for Work Study positions, undergraduate research opportunities, and the Indigenous undergraduate research program.
We’re now able to offer year-round service hours for the clinic on campus, which is something that previously was unavailable. Having access to a physician, nurse practitioner or counsellor when needed is important and we want to ensure students have options on-campus. We’re also expanding wellness education for students.
There’s a critical space shortage on campus. new building development, such as the downtown campus or Interdisciplinary Collaboration and Innovation (ICI) building, will help address the need for more classrooms, more study spaces, etc. We also have a commitment to continuously refresh and improve informal learning spaces and study areas on campus.
New program development
When new programs are developed, we also need to plan for creating space to host these programs and hiring new faculty members.
How does student affordability come into play with these increases?
More funding for students
Last year, the majority of funds created one-time bursaries to help students offset the costs of flooding, wildfires, COVID, and other factors. There were also one-time bursaries that students could use to upgrade their technology for learning from home. This funding got exhausted in the first term, so it got extended and increased in the next semester. A lot of the funding from last year could get carried into next year, so there’s more needs-based support for the students who need it
The Student Affordability Task Force
The Student Affordability Task Force is made up of staff, faculty, and student representatives who are making recommendations on how UBCO can help students afford tuition. They’re working to help students with big issues like getting needs-based funding, and addressing food security and affordable housing for students.
Why do incoming international students pay more than anyone else?
Part of domestic students’ tuition comes from a block grant from the BC government. There isn’t a grant like that for international students. There are a lot of factors at play when it comes to determining international student tuition rates, including ensuring tuition is in the same range as other comparable universities.
How can students get a say in how the money from tuition increases gets used?
The consultation with the SUO and graduate students plays a really big role in deciding where funding goes. Talk to your student representatives and take part in the annual tuition consultations because your insights are really important. When you receive the email with tuition consultation survey, make sure you participate in it!
I hope this blog post helped to demystify the topic of tuition increases for you, and motivates you to talk to a student representative about your concerns about tuition and funding at UBCO.
About the author
Sarah Kloos is a transfer student from Okanagan College. She’s a Creative Writing major, a collector of cool rocks, and a lover of novels. While she’s still not 100% sure what she’s going to be when she grows up, she’s okay with that. For now, she’s learning everything she can from her Work Study experience and loving every minute of it.