Queen’s plans to maintain tuition fees for remote learning, anticipating loss of international tuition

International enrolment, at risk due to pandemic, could cause up to $87 million in revenue loss

Mark Green, provost and vice-principal (academic), said the approach of pricing online courses the same as those delivered in-person is “consistent across the sector.” 

As Queen’s plans for a semester of remote learning, it also intends to maintain regular tuition fees for the fall term. 

Mark Green, provost and vice-principal (academic), told the Board of Trustees at a meeting on May 8 that the University expects tuition fees for online courses to remain the same as those delivered in-person.

The University is anticipating a number of budgetary risks associated with the process of implementing remote delivery in the fall term. The greatest risk Queen’s has identified is the possibility of enrolment reductions, which would directly contribute to lower revenue.

Green acknowledged the risk the University is taking by maintaining fees, adding that the University’s weakest point is retaining international students.

“[The risk] is maybe more likely to manifest itself into [international] students either not showing up to begin with, or that they want to stay [in their home country] and take some courses locally on an International Letter of Permission,” Green said. 

International students pay the highest amount of tuition to attend Queen’s. In 2019, The Journal reported that international students paid an average of $40,168. 17 for one year of an Arts and Science undergraduate degree, depending on the time of enrolment. 

While the University is unable to predict how international student enrolment will be impacted in the fall term, it’s planning for a variety of scenarios wherein enrolment targets aren’t met.

One scenario anticipates undergraduate programs will see no first-year international students while maintaining regular upper-year enrolment, which would create a revenue reduction of $42 million in the 2020-21 year.

Another scenario projects a situation in which there are no first-year international students and a 50 per cent decrease in upper-year enrolment. This would reduce revenue by $87 million in the 2020-21 year.

However, Green said tuition fees will not decrease in an online learning environment.

“We have always taken that the way we price our online courses is the same fee structure as our regular courses,” Green said. “[T]hat’s very consistent across the sector.”

Although Queen’s anticipates “a lot of pressure” from students, Green said there’s a significant way to go before any institution agrees to reduce tuition fees. 

In an internal email on May 12, Green acknowledged students will “rightly” want remote course offerings to be more advanced than those “developed on short notice in March.”

The University transitioned to remote learning on March 23 after the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis, forcing Queen’s to adopt physical distancing measures to prevent the virus’ spread.

Following the conclusion of the winter term, some Queen’s students organized a petition for a partial tuition refund because they found their online academic reality fell short of the in-person experience they paid for in their original tuition fees.

“[I]n talking with some other colleagues at similar institutions in Ontario and across Canada, everybody is very insistent we not change tuition because of the delivery mechanism,” Green said. “[The cost] is really for the quality of the overall degree.” 

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