International tuition is divided into two key areas. The main area is the base tuition which is what domestic students pay. Beyond this, international students pay what is called the “International Differential Fee.” The principle behind the fee is so that international students are ‘not subsidized by the taxpayer.’ This fee is calculated by multiplying the base tuition by a certain amount. As it stands now, the multiplier is around 280%.
There are a number of issues with the fee. For example, it is not clear what the unsubsidized cost of post-secondary is. The only example we have was when the University divided their operating budget by the number of students. This is not a good system since it doesn’t make sense for budget areas such as ‘marketing’ to be a part of a student's financial burden.
We should also note that international students do pay taxes in the form of income tax or a sales tax. Currently, the university does not take this into account when deciding what they should pay. This is extremely troubling since it ignores the numerous contributions international students make to the province by paying tax, rent, and other goods in Alberta. Furthermore, this philosophy treats international students as a burden rather than a contribution to the province.
In addition, historically, the fee has been increased arbitrarily and has often been used to cover revenue shortfalls during recessions or other difficult economic times. This can be seen with the recent increase where the university emphasizes that increase to the tuition will be used to cover the deficit.
Finally, it should be understood that the differential fee has never been about having international students pay the ‘unsubsidized cost.’ The history of the fee shows that it has been used to cover budget shortfalls and to unfairly target international students.
We will call for a full regulation of the international differential fee. That is, increases to the fee have to follow the same process as base tuition. The Minister of Advanced Education has the power to regulate differential fees through a ministerial order. So, this will be done by first placing the policy in the CAUS (Council of Alberta University Students) lobbying document. This will allow us to bring the issue up at every meeting.
We will also work with the International Students Association by bringing their representatives into meetings with government staff. In addition, we will work with them to organize potential protests and media campaigns.
We will call for a complete review of what the true cost of post-secondary is. This will be done by striking a task force on the Board of Governors (the body that sets tuition) in order to study what the true and fair cost of post-secondary education is. In addition, this group will evaluate the contribution international students already make (taxes) and how that changes what they pay.