Universities must prioritize their budgets for existing students

UBC ignores the current students who deserve to be prioritized.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that UBC will increase tuition fees by 20 per cent. Rather, UBC will increase housing fees by 20 per cent. This factual error has now been corrected. Facts are taken from a recent CBC report.


Last week, I stumbled upon an article that discussed UBC’s plans to construct an expensive new college that will cater only to wealthy international students. While I’m aware that the university has a colossal budget, I’m also aware that post-secondary budgets are shrinking, and that there is still an ironic division between the wealthy and the poor with regards to university costs.

I also understand that by chastising UBC’s blind economic decisions, I’m further perpetuating the long-established rivalry between between SFU and UBC. Though, in this instance, I feel a bit of ridicule is necessary, as our radical campus could probably learn a thing or two.

For those of you who don’t know, UBC has decided to pull $127 million out of its shrinking pocket to build the new Vantage College — an institution that will not be open to domestic citizens or permanent residents. The campus will contain housing with over 1,000 rooms, and will cost students over $50,000 per year to attend.

This comes as quite “a slap in the face,” as one UBC student so justly told CBC last week. The university has blatantly ignored the housing needs of their domestic students: some 5,000 individuals are waiting impatiently to get in on the presently limited number of housing spaces offered by UBC.

Adding insult to injury, because of this project, domestic students will soon face an over 20 per cent increase in their already high housing fees. As an SFU student who has lived in residence the past three years, I’m all too accustomed to the frustration and anger that accompanies learning that housing fees will be slightly higher than they were the year before.

Vantage College will provide wealthy international students with preferential treatment over their domestic counterparts.

I feel for these UBC undergrads — a 20 per cent increase will surely (and unnecessarily) place a hefty financial burden on a great number of students, many of whom are undoubtedly far along in their educational careers.

Current students also worry about the creation of an elite presence on campus. Vantage College will not only sequester these wealthy new individuals and discourage them from mingling with the Canadian student body, but will provide these people with preferential treatment over their domestic counterparts — after all, they’re the ‘50,000 dollar elite,’ they deserve to be pampered, right?

Sure, Angela Redish, vice-president of enrollment, can tout what is apparently the primary reason for this project: the college will “better support international students whose second language is English.” But anyone with a brain can see that Redish hides an ulterior motive behind her words. The institution sees enormous profit in prospective international students, so much so that it carelessly ignores the needs of existing students who deserve to be prioritized.

Thankfully, this discussion allows an opportunity for SFU and other institutions to learn from UBC’s mistakes, and critically examine where they allocate their own resources. While it’s important to entice future students to SFU, hopefully this institution has the sense to use its money to help better the experience of its current students, both foreign and domestic.

In other words, SFU: please treat your students with respect and don’t spend our money on exclusive bullshit. Place the focus on your current students, the thousands of us who are easily accessible, need education, and will benefit far more from your financial aid.

1 COMMENT

  1. While I am happy that the issues surrounding the fee increases at UBC are being discussed at post-secondary institutions across the province, it is vital that these discussions are happening with correct information and an actual understanding of what is happening.

    There are some extremely concerning statements and information in the above article that are blatantly wrong. The tuition increases are ten percent, and will be applied to only incoming international students. The housing fees are approximately 20% applied next year to the 8 month housing contracts on campus. As for Vantage College, the issues surrounding both its development and its execution are complex, however it is unfair to simplify it to an “X caused Y” situation.

    Don’t get me wrong, these fees are definitely worrying and highlight major problems in Universities’ attitudes towards students; my goal is not to discourage discourse. But please, make sure you are informed and well researched when engaging in these discussions and putting your opinions forward. Student responses and opinions have the ability to be very powerful, but not if they are laden with inaccuracies and oversimplify the issues.