'We need to make a change': Students fight for tuition equity

Students all over Ontario are speaking up about tuition inequity for their international peers.

On Thursday, the #NeedOrGreed movement, made up of student associations across Ontario will be marching on Queen’s Park, but for those that can’t make the trek to Toronto, there are still ways to get involved, said spokesperson Tima Shah.

“The campaign is open to all students,” said Shah. “There are letter templates ready to send to decision-makers on the website.”

By 10 a.m. on the first day of the campaign, over 250 letters had been sent from the site to the Ontario government.

“It’s a way for students to say, I care about this issue and we need to make a change," she said.

The campaign is advocating for a tuition freeze that applies to international students and limiting tuition increases for international students to three per cent, among other measures.

In Ontario, in 2019/2020, 54.4 per cent of funding for public colleges and universities came from student fees, according to StatsCan.

At Northern College, there are drastic changes in tuition for international students compared to domestic students in the same programs.

The business and office administration program tuition, for example, is nearly four-and-a-half times more. It is $3,553 for domestic students and $15,696 for international students in the same program.

For someone enrolled in their first year of the BScN Nursing program, a domestic student's cost is $6,818 compared to the $27,259 charge for an international student.

Northern College says that a lack of government funding and the cost of offering these programs has added to the cost for international students, but they are offering support.

"Northern offers a number of tuition awards and bursaries which are only accessible to international students and are widely advertised and promoted to those students through a number of avenues," reads a statement from the college. "Further tuition assistance is available to our international students through our Financial Aid office in addition to the grassroots services accessible to all of our students at Northern, including a student food bank and clothing for those in need.”

Many are feeling the pinch.

Kolinoor Khan is in his final semester in the computer science program at Northern College and said that the immediate problem of housing students takes precedence, but lower tuition might help with that too.

“Many are going without proper housing,” said Prabhjot Kaur, who is in her first semester in the practical nursing program at Northern College. “Everyone wants to reduce their costs.”

Shah agrees, noting that issues with housing and inflation are only compounded by the ever-rising tuition costs for international students, especially those limited on how much they can work now that classes are back on campus.

“If they’re here on a study visa they’re limited on how much they can work, or working cash jobs and not being treated well, so all of that highlighted how high international tuition has become and how unsustainable it is," she said.

She said that sharing their stories, either with other students or online using the #NeedOrGreed hashtag can break down a lot of the misconceptions domestic students might have about those studying abroad.

“Share your lived experiences, share what challenges you are having,” said Shah. “These stories need to get to decision-makers.”

Amanda Rabski-McColl, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com