SFU student writes letter on tuition increases

The letter asks for student fee deferrals due to remote learning

Image Courtesy of Simon Fraser University via Facebook

Written by: Dev Petrovic, Staff Writer

On September 8, SFU student Aliya Boulanger wrote a letter to decision-makers regarding SFU’s tuition increase. At the March 19 meeting, the Board of Governors approved the tuition hike in regards to the 2020–21 Budget and Financial Plan. The increase entails a 2% increase for domestic undergraduate students and 4% increase for undergraduate for international students.

Boulanger asks that “student activity fees for this semester are deferred until the student body can use the facilities that they’re paying for, and the student activity fees [students have] paid for this semester to be refunded.” 

She also calls on SFU “to go to bat for its students against TransLink to get us an opt-in system” as well as the “freez[ing of] tuition increases until our education can be delivered in the way in which it was intended, and refund us the tuition increase they charged us for this semester.”

The student fee breakdown has indicated that remote students are not being charged for Athletics & Recreation fees and supplementary fees for laboratory equipment. Student services fees continue to operate remotely and are still included in tuition fees, as well as the student activity fee, which is set by the Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS). Students eligible in pre-existing categories for exemption of the U-Pass and students residing outside of Metro Vancouver are able to opt-out of the U-Pass fee, which is also set by the SFSS. 

Boulanger sent her letter to Dr. Jonathan Driver and the Minister for Advanced Education, Melanie Mark, twice. In her second attempt, she included other ministers of education. Boulanger stated that she had not received a response from any of the recipients.

The Peak spoke to Boulanger in regards to her letter and what prompted her to take action against the tuition increase. She explained that she was disappointed with “the way the end of the Spring 2020 semester was handled” and hoped there would be improvements made to the quality of education for the Fall 2020 semester. 

“It reaffirms what many of my SFU peers and I have felt; that SFU as an institution is not a supportive community where students are seen as human beings, but rather as units to be churned through the system to maximize efficiency and financial gain,” Boulanger said.

Boulanger’s next steps will be to “try to ask these questions in person [ . . . ] [and] to send the letter, or a shorter version, to local papers and other media.

“We are consumers, and the SFU administration is accountable to us! If we’re not satisfied we have to let them know, otherwise they’ll continue to take advantage of us. We are powerful if we ask for these things together, so I encourage those reading this to take the time to speak up and take action,” Boulanger concluded.

In a statement to The Peak, Vice-President and Academic Provost pro tem, Jonathan Driver, explained that “SFU is funded through [ . . . ] operating revenues [that] come from a grant from the province (based on enrollment targets) and from tuition fees from students. 

“This covers all the costs of running a big institution – salaries, financial aid, equipment and supplies, library, cleaning, utilities, etc.”

Driver noted that “tuition fees are adjusted annually by the Board of Governors, based on budget projections,” and “the rate of increase for domestic students is often capped by the province below the level of inflation.

“SFU is maintaining a full range of academic programs and supports for students, including increased financial assistance. Most of the costs associated with those activities will increase due to inflation, with salaries being the single largest expense. While some costs have gone down (e.g. electricity costs), others have increased, including financial aid to students, and IT services for remote delivery of programs,” concluded Driver.