The student association at an Edmonton polytechnic is pushing back against a sudden 24-per-cent increase in international student fees.
International students currently enrolled at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) pay domestic tuition, plus a surcharge 2.35 times that amount.
That surcharge is jumping from 2.35 to 3.15 times higher for new international students, including those who have already accepted an offer to start studying at the school in September 2017.
"It's a huge increase," said John Perozok, president of NAIT's student association.
"It isn't small, it isn't predictable, it isn't something that students could have been anticipating."
Canadian students in NAIT's two-year business administration program pay $3,880 per year. International students in the same program currently pay about $13,000 per year.
Incoming international students will now have to pay $16,102 for each year of the program.
"We would love to see tuition increases that are small and predictable," Perozok said.
"But when it's something like this, 24 per cent, that is not by any means small or predictable — we have a hard time with that."
The student association published a statement condemning NAIT's tuition hike on Thursday, calling on the school to revise its position towards students who accepted offers before the rate increased.
"We expect NAIT to follow through on their promises and charge students the rates that they have advertised," the association's vice-president Katie Spencer is quoted as saying.
"We don't think that it is consistent with NAIT's values to advertise one rate and then charge a student another after they have already been accepted."
'We welcome international students'
There are 29,700 students enrolled in the school's credit programs, of which 1,700 pay international fees. About 300 new students will be affected by the change, according to NAIT spokesperson Frank Landry.
"Of course we welcome international students and they enrich the experience here at NAIT," Landry said.
"But we were in a position where international tuition hadn't increased in three years. The cost had gone up in that time and we did not want Alberta taxpayers to have to heavily subsidize their tuition."
Students who are already enrolled won't pay higher fees, unless they start a new program.
Landry said he couldn't comment on the university's stance towards international students who can't afford the new rate or who accepted offers for the fall semester before tuition increased.
Mateo Roldan, 19, is already enrolled in a full-time NAIT program to improve his English. He has been taking classes for almost two years so he can study digital media and information technology.
He planned to apply for NAIT's two-year diploma course, which starts in September. Faced with higher tuition fees, Roldan said he will be forced to enroll part-time because he can't earn the extra money in time.
The part-time program takes four years, twice as long as with a full-time course load.
"Our tuition is quite expensive so it's going to make it more difficult for us to stay and study," said Roldan, who is originally from Colombia.
"Most of us are just trying to accomplish a dream, which is to move on from different countries and actually have an opportunity and a shot in life in a better economy and a better world."
Roldan emceed an event in honour of NAIT's international students on Friday. With a nod at the diversity of students around him, Roldan said he feels at home on campus and hopeful about his future in Edmonton.
"It's going to be more difficult for all of us to achieve the dreams and hopes we have for the future," Roldan said.
"But the opportunities that Canada offers after post-secondary programs are quite good and hopefully, with all my strength, I can actually achieve those."