Really BIG Deal not a hit with tuition freeze organizers

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For anyone starting to shop for Christmas already, I’m a size $30,000 in tuition. University of Regina and mohammad_hassan via Pixabay manipulated by Lee Lim

This is Really NOT working

It was not the solution Harsh Patel hoped for in his efforts to freeze high tuition rates. 

  “This wasn’t something I was expecting,” said Patel. “Students being forced on campus to get their fees frozen. I would have hoped they would have frozen the fees for all students, not just students who want to live on-campus.” 

The University of Regina came out with ‘The Really BIG Deal,’ a housing and tuition savings program for international and domestic students. The program contains locked-in tuition rates and fees, locked-in discounted housing rates, locked-in bus pass, locked-in dental plan, an annual $1,000 meal card, and an annual $500 U of R campus store credit voucher.  

  Patel said this “first step” to helping students will only aid a certain percentage of the international and domestic students. “It’s still not somethings students would prefer, because living off-campus is still cheaper than living on-campus.” As an international student himself, Patel said international students are in need of financial relief. Patel said international students currently pay between $22,000-$25,000 for tuition – three times as much as the average domestic student. 

The savings program promises students that they will save between $18,000-$21,000 over a four-year period. Students who are only in post-secondary for a one-year certificate or a two-year course are not saving as much money as they would be if their degree was in a four-year program, and many international students pursuing a four-year degree have only had this offered to them halfway through their degree. If students opt into the savings program for their last year of study, they could only be saving between $5,000-$7,500, instead of $18,000-$21,000 over a four-year period.  

  Patel said it is “frustrating” tuition fees will still go up for students if they do not opt into this plan. Patel previously occupied International Student Director with the University of Regina Student Union (URSU) and played a large part in organizing the ‘Freeze the Fees’ student tuition rally.  Two rallies were organized in the winter term of 2022 by URSU. One for international students, and a second for international students and domestic students alike.  

  After the rally, Patel received a response from the U of R about their demands to freeze high tuition rates after the first rally took place Feb 2. After joining President Jeff Keshen for a consultation meeting, Patel said he did not hear back about a plan of action to help international students until he entered his new position as VP of Student Affairs in May.  

  Patel said the meeting consulted many other international students who had questions about enrollment services, residence living conditions, and on-campus dining services. Many issues regarding high tuition rates “veered off” throughout the meeting.  Patel had mixed emotions about the savings program. “I’ll take it as a partial victory, but this only benefits students who are staying on campus for a long period of time.” 

  University of Regina President Jeff Keshen said the U of R is still committed to making sure students have affordable options to live on campus. Keshen said The Really BIG Deal was in efforts to help students save money, and to help fill vacant rooms on campus. “I recognize that students do struggle and I know that those who are living off-campus struggle as well,” said Keshen. “I also recognize that it would have been far more welcome if we’d have been able to do it for every student, but these are the ones that we are able to do it for at this point in time.” 

Keshen said the university is also facing millions in debt from the pandemic, and they are trying to recover. Patel said he will not be opting into the savings deal because he saves more money off campus. Tuition is set to increase for all students by 3.5 per cent for the fall semester.

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