Tuition Breakdown: Summer 2021

Find out where your money is actually going

PHOTO: Pxfuel

by Kelly Chia, Staff Writer

In November 2020, students received an email from vice president, academic and provost pro tem Jonathan Driver and vice president, finance and administration Martin Porchuko regarding tuition. In the email, they said SFU’s Board of Governors “approved a 2% increase for domestic undergraduate tuition and a 4% increase for international undergraduate tuition for the current academic year, and [proposed] similar increases for the next two years.” The email explained that with $26 million less income than expected as well as inflation costs, there would be significant changes as classes shifted online. The SFU Board of Governors needed to approve the tuition increase and similar increases in the next two years.

Let’s look at what these numbers look like in our budget compared to last year and where our tuition money goes.


2020/21 Undergraduate (UG) tuition: $195.88 (per basic unit*), $859.69 (per international basic unit if enrolled in 2017 or earlier) and graduate tuition: $293.86 (per basic unit)

*Basic unit here refers to programs that aren’t 200/300/400 business, engineering science, mechatronic systems engineering, sustainable energy engineering, and computing science. These programs are considered premium units in the SFU budget. 

In 2019/20, undergraduate tuition fees were $192.03, $826.62, and $1,946.94 respectively by comparison. 

Tuition fees are collected into a revenue pool, where they make up 36% of SFU’s revenue for program delivery. The 2020 annual report notes that tuition increased by $16 million because international and graduate student enrolment increased. Additionally, the tuition rate increased for both domestic students and various programs for new international students. 

The number listed earlier for international unit tuition per unit only applies if that student entered SFU in 2016/2017 or earlier, as the fee has increased by 4% every two years. If an international student enrolled in 2017/2018 or 2018/2019, their basic unit fee would be $909.24. If they entered in 2019/2020 or later, their fee would be $929.24. 

The biggest expenditure is employee compensation, going into services like long-term disability, pension, and other benefits for employees. This revenue pool that includes tuition roughly goes into the following expenses: 

  • 63%, Salaries and Employee Benefits
  • 19%, Supplies and Services
  • 13%, Amortization, Interest and Utilities
  • 5%, Scholarship and Bursaries

From last year, employee compensation has increased by 1%, supplies and services expenditures have decreased by 2%, and amortization, interest, and utility fees have decreased by 1%. The annual report states that “scholarships and bursaries increased due to additional awards for bursaries $2M, scholarships $1M and awards $1M.” 


UG Student Activity Fee: $149.64 (full-time) 

The Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) collects these funds. Last year, the student activity fee was $127.14 and most of the fees that break down are identical.

  •  $42.74, the SFSS operating fee has remained static from last year. It funds services such as Out on Campus, a free legal clinic, the food bank program, and the Women’s Centre. 
  • $5.00, the Student Society Building Fund/Capital Levy fee.
  • $0.25, the SFSS Food Bank Program: during COVID-19, students only needed to make one request to be given a one-time lump sum in the Spring 2020 semester. Generally, undergraduate students in need can apply for a $25 food certificate up to three times a semester to be redeemed at Nesters Market, the Safeway at the SFU Surrey location, and/or Nesters Woodwards.
  • $80, Build SFU Levy: this fund pays for buildings like the Student Union Building (SUB) and the stadium. This fund is set to increase every January for full-time students by $10 and $5 for part-time students until 2022.
  • $3.00, Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG): The SFPIRG is a student-run resource centre dedicated to engaging students in social justice and environmental justice. 
  • $4.90, The Peak Publication Society (hey!): The Peak is SFU’s weekly student-run newspaper.
  • $3.75, Campus Community Radio Society (CJSF): CJSF is a campus/community station that aims to broadcast alternative music and express points of views rarely platformed by mainstream media. 
  • $5.00, World University Service of Canada (WUSC): WUSC runs the student refugee program at SFU, working with SFU International Services for Students to prepare and integrate students into SFU with social and material support. A $2.50 fund increase was approved through referendum in March 2020. 
  • $0.75, First Nations Student Association (FNSA): SFU’s “independent student-run organization for all self-identified Aboriginal, First Nations, Inuit, Métis, and Status/Non-status students.” 
  • $0.75, Accessibility Fund. Students “with disabilities, or any event organizer, can use this fund to increase accessibility at SFSS activities.”
  • $3.50, Embark Sustainability Society (ESS): Embark Sustainability aims to cultivate sustainable communities on SFU, through programs that explore things like food systems


Graduate Student Activity Fee (GSS): $70.44 (full-time)

The GSS gathers these fees for students enrolled in a graduate program. These fees have stayed the same from last year. The number for full-time graduate students breaks down this fee below:

  • $54.29, GSS membership fee: the SFU graduate students’ student society and government. 
  • $4.90, The Peak Publication Society (hey again!)
  • $3.00, Simon Fraser Public Interest Research Group (SFPIRG)
  • $3.75, Campus Community Radio Society (CJSF)
  • $2.50, World University Service of Canada (WUSC)
  • $0.75, First Nations Student Association (FNSA)
  • $3.50, Embark Sustainability Society (ESS)


Universal Transit Pass: $170

This is the U-Pass BC term fee. This program was approved by SFU, the SFSS, the GSS, Translink, and the Province of British Columbia to provide students affordable access to public transit. 


Undergraduate and Graduate Student Services Fee: $48.05

SFU oversees this fee, and it goes towards student services like academic advising and international services. These groups are in charge of advising incoming students and providing volunteer opportunities through the Global Student Centre. 


Undergraduate and Graduate Rec & Athletics Fee: $78.47 (if enrolled in four or more units)

This fee was not assessed to students for the Spring 2021 term. This is the fee normally paid by students to access SFU Recreation services and the facilities on the Burnaby campus, as well as some facilities in Vancouver and Surrey


Undergraduate and Graduate Basic Medical Insurance: $281.00 

This is the basic insurance coverage provided by the Medical Services Plan of BC that goes towards the Health & Dental plan provided by Studentcare.


StudentCare Health & Dental Plan for Undergraduates: $169.58

As of January 1, 2021 to August 31, 2021, the fees for this plan have decreased for students that enrolled in the Spring term to reflect eight months of coverage as opposed to 12. The fees would otherwise be $254.36 for enhanced coverage, and $197.52 for basic coverage. All students are automatically covered by the enhanced plan, but have options to mix portions of the basic plan explained here. Here’s how these fees break down in the enhanced plan: 

  • $57.62, Health plan: covers up to 100% of vaccination cost, 80% of prescription drugs cost, diagnostic services, and more.
  • $112.12, Dental plan: covers 70% – 80% of dental costs. 

Additionally, the cost of vision care and travel coverage is included in this plan.

Studentcare summarizes the differences between the basic and enhanced plans in terms of coverage here


Studentcare Extended Health and Dental Benefits for Graduate students: $310.00

Graduate students enrolled in January 2021 would pay $310.00 for eight months of coverage. The fee for twelve months of coverage is $465.00. Unlike with the undergraduate health and dental plan, there is only one plan as opposed to a basic and enhanced one.

  • $130.62, Health plan: covers up to 80% of prescription vaccinations, up to 100% of non-prescription vaccinations, and up to 80% coverage on prescription drugs. 
  • $179.40, Dental plan: covers 80% of dental costs.

Again, the cost of vision care and travel coverage is included in this plan. 


Mandatory Supplementary Course Fees:

These are courses that require additional fees to successfully complete the class, and the cost varies depending on the class. For example, all classes offered through the Centre for Online and Distance Education (CODE) have a $40 supplementary fee. 

This fee covers “direct costs (e.g. copyright, printing, postage/courier) associated with the overall production, assembly, and delivery of print-based and online materials and services for distance education courses.”

Lastly, in addition to the information provided in this article, this website lists other special fees paid by undergraduate students, like application for admission, residence, replacement of Identification card, and graduation. This website provides graduate student tuition fees