Explainer: international tuition fees rise to offset domestic cuts

University focused fee increases on undergraduate international students

The University raised some international tuition fees to offset domestic tuition freeze.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

Following the provincial government’s directive that domestic tuition fees at publicly assisted universities be reduced by 10 per cent from the 2018-19 levels, the University increased some international tuition fees by up to five per cent per year to counteract the loss. 

The Ontario government has also mandated universities freeze tuition at the 2019-20 levels. For Queen’s, the resulting financial loss is being made up in the form of international students’ tuition fees, as the government’s framework doesn’t apply to most of them.

At Principal Patrick Deane’s first open community meeting on Oct. 15, international students at the event raised concerns about barriers higher tuition fees may cause them.

International student tuition changes

In a March report submitted to the Board of Trustees by Tom Harris, interim provost and vice principal (academic), the proposed tuition fee increases for the 2019-20 year, which now largely represent the University’s current policy, were outlined to account for the 10 per cent tuition reduction, ineligible for some graduate programs.

The report promised tuition for international graduate students in a research stream wouldn’t rise. According to the report, the decision was made to maintain the University’s competitiveness in attracting high-quality students.

The exception leaves international undergraduate student tuition fees as the main revenue source to offset the University’s financial losses. According to the report, this group of students faced up to a five per cent tuition increase per year for a normal length degree program.

Many of the international programs saw a bump of more than five per cent from 2018-2019 to 2019-2020, ranging from 6.9 to 11 per cent, with each program later levelling out at five per cent increases each year for the normal duration of the degree.

Focusing specifically on increasing international undergraduate students’ tuition comes not only because the new tuition framework doesn’t apply to them, but also since the Ontario government cut $825 per full-time equivalent international student from the University’s base operating grant.

The Board report states the Ontario government implemented this cut with the expectation that “funding may be recovered through international tuition fees.”

As previously reported by The Journal, when the government cut OSAP funding, there was a similar shift towards using international tuition fees to make up the difference. At the time, domestic undergraduate Arts and Science students paid on average 19.77 per cent of what their international peers did for the same degree.

With the new tuition framework, domestic undergraduate Arts and Science students will now pay 13.17 per cent of what their international counterpart does.

In an emailed statement to The Journal, Harris wrote that Queen’s relies on international students who “bring new ideas and perspectives and whose presence enriches the university.”

Harris also emphasized the University’s multi-year goal to increase its international student makeup to 15 per cent of the incoming undergraduate student body. Currently, international students make up 13.5 per cent of undergraduate students.

“We are very mindful of the impact on international students of adjusting tuition, and our 2019-20 international tuition fee changes are in line with the strategy implemented in previous years,” Harris said.

“The University ensures the annual tuition increase for international undergraduate students will not exceed five percent throughout the normal length of their degree programs.”

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