“Freeze the Fees”: URSU calls on admin to stop international student tuition hikes

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You heard ‘em. Gillian Massie

Fees are excessive, exploitative

The University of Regina’s halls were filled with chanting last Wednesday as students gathered to call on the University of Regina to reduce the skyrocketing rates of tuition and fees for international students. The “Freeze the Fees” tuition rally, organized by the University of Regina Student Union (URSU) and International Student Caucus on February 2, called for the University of Regina to freeze tuition for international students.

Students and faculty met in Riddell Centre for the beginning of the march that concluded in the Administration Humanities building for speeches. Organizer and International Student Director for URSU, Harshkumar Patel, led the group of an estimated 70 protestors holding signs that said “Freeze the Fees.”

Students gathering in the Ad Hum pit held signs saying “Education should not be a debt sentence” and “No more tuition hikes” which was hung from the staircase. Many students donned official “Freeze the Fees” shirts and masks while petitioners from the University of Regina NDP Student Caucus collected signatures to lower international fees.  

Patel is currently an international student at the university whose fees have gone up by 25 per cent in the three years he has been at the University of Regina. And tuition does not include costs of rent or other living expenses which have also increased during that time period, making it increasingly difficult for international students to pay their expenses. Many international students are only allowed to work 20 hour a week, which doesn’t allow them to earn enough to cover their expenses. If international students are caught working more than 20 hours, they could face consequences as extreme as being deported from Canada.

URSU General Manager Talha Akbar spoke at the rally, saying that tuition fees have drastically changed since he first entered university. International students are often the first ones to get hit with tuition hikes because they are the most marginalized members of the university community. Gradually, these budget increases work their way down the chain to domestic students.

International students currently make up 17.7 per cent of the University of Regina and their fees are around three times as much as those of domestic students. Akbar explains how international students have received the majority of tuition hikes because there is nothing that restricts universities from hiking international students’ tuition. “International students pay triple the amount for their tuition for the same education,” said Akbar.

International students pay between $20,948-$22,208 on average for a full time semester’s tuition compared to $6,938-$7,403 for domestic students at the University of Regina. Similar situations are occurring at the University of Saskatchewan with international students paying $20,131-$20,614 while domestic students pay $6,710-$6,871 in tuition.

Member of the University of Regina Faculty Association, Emily Eaton, spoke about how actions need to be taken from the halls of university to the lawn of the legislature. The University of Regina’s budget projections state there is a $16 million fallout from the 2021-2022 fiscal year. Eaton worries that the University of Regina will deny any tuition freezes because of the budget shortages. Worries that this will be an excuse to raise international students’ tuition continue while the 2022-2023 budget is being created.

Members of the NDP Caucus were in attendance of the rally, including MLA Aleana Young. Young spoke on how the University of Regina currently has the lowest rate of retention of international students compared to every other university in Canada. Many students are already struggling with mental health, schoolwork, and personal life throughout the pandemic. In order for international and domestic students to succeed in their post-secondary life, equity must occur for international students to continue with their education.

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