International students still paying a flat rate for tuition fees

TRUSU campaign calls on university to "grow out of" its flat-rate structure for international students

TRU World's interim associate VP international Baihua Chadwick said that changes to the university's fee structure have been debated, and she foresees change in the future. Sean Brady/The Omega

TRU World’s interim associate VP international Baihua Chadwick said that changes to the university’s fee structure have been debated, and she foresees change in the future. Sean Brady/The Omega

A campaign is underway to change how international students pay tuition. TRUSU wants international students to be able to pay tuition on a per-credit basis, the same way domestic students pay.

International students currently pay a flat-rate tuition fee of $16,773 per year, regardless of how many classes they’re taking, though study visas typically require a full course load (three or more courses).

Domestic students pay $4,814 per year for academic programs, according to TRU’s “Know Your Costs” website.

The difference in fees stems from government subsidy afforded to the university based on domestic student enrollment.

“I’m not asking them to decrease anything. I just want them to make it fair,” said TRUSU international students’ representative Deborah Efretuei.

Efretuei is behind the International Student Collective’s campaign to allow international students to pay on a per-credit basis rather than a flat rate. She’s collecting signatures and feedback from affected students to present to TRU at the board of governors meeting in January.

“If you take less, you’re just wasting your money. It’s more of a pressure. It affects our grades. Some people are still learning English, some are working with school, and so five courses is not really a realistic number for all students,” Efretuei said. “[They] still have to take at least three, but let it be what they can handle.”

TRU World’s interim associate vice president international Baihua Chadwick explained the fee differently, saying that the rate is not for three courses, but for any full course load, which TRU defines as three courses or more.

“The principle of the flat rate is not for five courses. It’s for a full course load,” Chadwick said.

“The fee is a minimal fee for three courses. Perhaps that student can say ‘Oh, my friend got a better deal,’ but that student is not ripped off, because you’re paying what you’re receiving.”

Efretuei noted two other universities in B.C., University of the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island University, which charge international students on a flat-rate basis. She called the system unsustainable, saying that the practice is one that every university will eventually “grow out of.”

When asked if the university would look into changing the policy, TRU World’s Chadwick said “It’s been debated. I certainly can see change coming. It certainly will be considered – all factors.”

While they make up just 15 per cent of the on-campus student population, international students account for 45 per cent of the student tuition revenues for the university, which total $53 million (including domestic students). This, according to a March 31 year-end report issued by the vice-president administration and finance, which also shows that while domestic student enrollment has gone mostly unchanged since 2009, international student enrollment has increased by 27 per cent.