Dalhousie's international students are fighting a yearly 11.1 percent tuition increase in the upcoming 2019-2020 budget. On Tuesday, the budget will go to a vote—if it passes, new Dalhousie international students will be paying up to 44 percent more for tuition in their fourth year than students pay now.
"Regardless of the high tuition we pay," says Tabasa Shimada, "we still receive the same education." Shimada is a fourth-year political science student from Toyko, and the vice-president external of Dalhousie's International Students Association.
Shimada organized the rally that marched from Dal's International Centre to deliver more than 1,000 signatures protesting the increase to administration last Tuesday.
The increase "would add up to an astronomical amount of money," says Shimada. "International students already pay twice as much." The average international tuition fees for undergraduate science programs at Dalhousie are currently $18,177. And the posed increase would mean new international students would see a $8,000 to $10,000 increase over the next four years.
University administration defends the increase on the grounds that Dalhousie tuition is still lower than comparable schools. (Western University, for example, charges international students $25,666-$28,743 a year.)
Faiza Nauman, a third-year biology student from Saudi Arabia, chose Dalhousie in part for the ocean, and in part because she couldn't afford the ocean on the west coast. "If I was one of the students coming in, in fall 2019 semester, I wouldn't be able to afford this university," they say. "And it's so sad to think that I wouldn't have been able to come."
Both Nauman and Shimada plan to stay and work in Nova Scotia when they graduate.
All levels of government are are laying on the international student love lately. Immigration minister Ahmed Hussen says that helping international students stay is a key facet of Canada's new multi-year immigration levels plan for 2018-2020. Lynette Macleod, spokesperson for the province, says via email the office of immigration "has made great progress in finding pathways for [international students] to stay and work." The number of students immigrating through their programs has increased from 25 in 2014 to 440 in 2018. Mayor Mike Savage recently touted the success of his international student dinners at the Metropolis Immigration conference in March.
Tuition hikes for Nova Scotia students are capped at three percent, but the province does not regulate international or post-graduate student tuition. Spokesperson Shannon Kerr says the primary focus of the provincial government is to maintain accessibility "for Nova Scotian students who study at Nova Scotian universities...as Nova Scotia taxpayers contribute to the funding of universities in the province."
For the province "to welcome students in order for them to stay, first international students have to come to Canada and Dalhousie's proposal of this international student tuition increase is doing literally the opposite," says Shimada. An 11.1 percent tuition increase and improving access for international student retention are "not two views that go together," says Nauman.
Students protesting the hike at the rally called out the administration for using international students as endless cash revenues that can help balance the budget, calling for better spending of international tuition to support international students.
Shimada and other students went to three of four consultation sessions for the budget, protesting the hike and asking for more supports from the university, like culturally informed counselling and mental-health supports. She says, "things like that get turned down because the International Centure"—where Shimada works—"does not have the capacity."
Dalhousie spokesperson Janet Bryson says the new budget also allocates $700,000 for supporting international students. If enrollment keeps its pace, there will be 500 new international students next year, which will put an extra $718,500 in Dal's pocket for 2019-2020. But the following year, the proposed increase will bring in an extra $2.9 million, and even more in subsequent years.
The budget will be voted on by the Dalhousie Board of Governors on April 16.