Students at the University of British Columbia are reacting strongly to the administration's proposed tuition increase for the upcoming academic year.
The suggested two per cent hike for most students — and four per cent hike for new international students — comes as classes continue online due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It was just upsetting to me. Like, everybody's going through a tough time right now, and as far as I know, everybody's kind of still paying the same amount of money that they would pay in a normal year," said Joshua Peng, a second year arts student.
"It's just quite the bomb to drop on us, emotionally speaking," said Peng.
The university sent students an email on Monday with links to a consultation website, but the idea of a consultation having any effect was quickly panned by some students on social media.
Matthew Ramsey, director of university affairs, declined an interview request from CBC News. Ramsey sent a written statement that said inflationary pressures are among the reasons UBC is proposing the increase.
"If tuition increases are approved as proposed for 2021-22, UBC proposes to allocate all of this year's incremental credit tuition revenue resulting from the rate increase towards COVID-19-impacted key priorities," wrote Ramsey, adding that in total, the tuition increases would result in $19 million in incremental funds in 2021-2022.
For Peng, who hasn't yet had a complete year of university unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the university experience has not been what he had expected, or hoped it would be.
"It does suck for me, but I know friends who really don't want this [tuition increase]. They're not in the best environment right now," he said.
Peng had hoped by this semester, classes might have returned to a hybrid format of online and in-person classes, but the number of COVID-19 cases in the province has remained high.
He said he struggles to maintain attention during online lectures at home, and being in the lecture hall "just works better."
Beyond the education, Peng said the social and networking aspect of university has been completely absent.
When asked about the quality of education at UBC during the pandemic, relative to the cost, Ramsey sent a link to a public relations article posted in August titled Why tuition is not being reduced at UBC. It argues that a fee reduction isn't possible, in part, due to a projected $225 million deficit for the 2020-2021 academic year.
Taylor Dotto, vice president external at the UBC Students' Union Okanagan, says rising tuition has made university education increasingly inaccessible.
"How are people supposed to continue going to post-secondary education when these barriers keep getting built up, especially in a year where there's a pandemic?" she asked. "It's very unfair and it's very frustrating."
In April, students launched a petition asking UBC to issue partial refunds to students during the pandemic. By late January, it had received nearly 9,000 signatures, but has had no success in decreasing tuition or generating refunds.
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