Letter: Why we do not support the proposed tuition increases

We will be voting against these tuition increases. We understand that tuition is critical to the university’s function — it represents a plurality of the revenues in our discretionary operating budget. We also thank the administration for the optimizations they have made to the process. However, we cannot support this proposal for several reasons.

Firstly, we still do not believe there has been a sufficient case built that these increases are necessary. As governors, we understand the need to keep up with inflationary pressures. We have only been shown the potential impact on the university's total surplus and the revenue forgone by voting against this increase.

We thank the administration for having provided models on a number of tuition increase scenarios, but we note that the further information we requested in September, such as an updated Tuition Allocation Model, are still not included in the materials for this discussion. Because of this, we are concerned that we still don’t have enough information on whether this proposal is in the best interest of the university.

Secondly, we have received no details on how such an increase would be necessary for the individual faculties. We have requested during this process to see faculty spending breakdowns and the tuition allocation model, neither has been provided today. Simply stating in the consultation that faculties will invest in a generic list of priorities is not respectful to the over 5,000 students who engaged in this consultation. There are multiple comments from students in the consultation report requesting to see more information on how this would impact their faculty.

Our students recognize that the majority of tuition — 69 per cent at UBC Vancouver, 55 per cent UBC Okanagan — is allocated to their respective faculties and rightfully point out the need to understand that component to make an informed decision. We do not see how governors can responsibly make a similar decision without this information.

Thirdly, we and past student governors have raised a number of concerns about the university’s approach to affordability. The University undertakes many important initiatives that help address affordability like Student Financial Aid, the Blue & Gold Campaign for Students, Open Educational Resources, Below Market Student Housing and more. However, the university still lacks any comprehensive plan to address the affordability crisis that is faced by students on this campus.

The lack of a cohesive, strategic approach has left serious gaps in our support systems which actively harm our most vulnerable students. Increasing tuition without a systematic plan to address the affordability crisis that we have pushed our students towards is careless. Our students are clear on this: we have students highlighting how the financial pressures of attending this university have led them to self-harm, food insecurity, reduced academic performance and delayed graduation.

We understand the “taxation” argument that the revenue from increasing tuition will be used to fund support services — but we cannot support that approach if our support services are flawed as a system. As one student put it, “this tuition increase will unduly harm students, and the proposed benefits will not be applicable to most students.”

Fourthly, this proposal will severely affect both graduate and international students. We still have graduate students who live below the poverty line, many of whom need to pay their tuition on top of living from stipends of the minimum guaranteed $18,000/year. And, since we increase tuition annually and not stipends, today’s vote will effectively put more graduate students below that poverty line.

While we are presently contemplating changes to stipend and tuition waiver models, we do not have a clear path forward at this time. We are not comforted by the thought that we may do something, when it is clear what impact this will have on students. UBC prides itself on being one of the most international universities in the world and that wouldn’t be possible without our international students. Yet, international students have very limited forms of financial aid and research scholarships available to them. International students not only have to contend with far higher tuition costs, they also have to deal with a higher annual increase.

Lastly, we would like to recognize the joint AMS, GSS and SUO submission and the 5,562 students who submitted comments. We also recognize the significant participation of both graduate and international students who are deeply affected by these increases.

We believe the frustration that our students demonstrated in the consultation has two root causes: the lack of a clear strategic vision tied to these proposed increases and the lack of a strategy to address financial pressures. We request that the next proposal for tuition increases be a multi-year plan, paired with a demonstrated, effective approach to affordability.

Jeanie Malone is a PhD student in biomedical engineering and a Board of Governors member elected by the UBC Vancouver student body.

Max Holmes is an arts student and a Board of Governors member elected by the UBC Vancouver student body.

Jassim Naqvi is a medical biochemistry and economics student and a Board of Governors member elected by the UBC Okanagan student body.