Board of Governors to vote on 2–5 per cent tuition increases on Monday

On Monday, the UBC Board of Governors (BoG) will likely approve another tuition increase. 

On November 17, the BoG Finance Committee voted in favour of a tuition increase of two per cent for domestic students, three per cent for continuing international students, and five per cent for new international students. The proposal will go before the rest of the Board for a vote on December 5, and if approved will take effect for 2023/24 tuition. 

This is a greater increase for international students than last year, when the tuition increase was two per cent for domestic students and continuing international students and four per cent for new international students.

Student governor Max Holmes was the only member of the Finance Committee to vote against this year's proposal.

Holmes voted in alignment with the majority of students, according to UBC’s annual tuition engagement survey. Ninety-two percent of respondents selected that they “Strongly Disagree,” “Disagree” or “Somewhat Disagree” with the proposed tuition increase. Six per cent voted that they agreed with the increase, while two per cent were unsure. 

4,778 students responded to the survey, slightly more than last year, but the 90 per cent disapproval rate remained consistent. 

UBC administrators justified the proposed tuition increase with rising inflation, supply chain issues and rising costs of labour and construction. 

“This year we're facing, as everyone knows, as our students are facing this too, extraordinary pressures on the cost of running a university,” said Provost and VP Academic Gage Averill at the meeting. “Much of our inflation is running at seven to eight per cent. This means all of our costs — the cost of buildings, the cost of our personnel, costs of equipment and supplies — are increasing rapidly.”

Averill also noted that UBC has the second-highest rates of student aid in the country, and that UBC allocates “$392.8 million in student financial support.”

AMS VP Academic and University Affairs Dana Turdy and President Eshana Bhangu submitted a statement to the committee in advance of the meeting in opposition to the proposed tuition increase. 

“We urge you to reflect that students who are bearing this cost are facing similar challenges at a profoundly personal level when they have to make difficult decisions between groceries, rent, educational materials, and tuition,” they wrote.

Survey results suggest that while COVID-19 has reduced as an urgent stressor, inflation, rising housing costs, health care and educational materials have grown as a source of financial burden for students. 

Ninety-three per cent of domestic students and ninety-one per cent of international student respondents said that they disagreed with the increase because “fees already cost too much.” Thirty-six percent of domestic and forty per cent of international students respondents said that increasing tuition fees could prevent them from finishing their degree. 

At the BoG meeting, VP Students Ainsley Carrey noted that these concerns are “embedded in the Student Affordability Task Force.” The Student Affordability Task Force aims to expand need-based aid and revise the tuition engagement process, among other goals, to decrease students’ financial burdens.

Beyond tuition approval, Holmes said that the survey could be more useful as an indicator of major affordability concerns for students, which could integrate into broader UBC planning such as in Campus Vision 2050. 

“Housing is the top of the list for expenses for students … We already have the largest below market housing stock of any university in North America, and we have the ability to expand that more,” said Holmes during the meeting. 

“I don’t think the survey is even really about tuition anymore.”