Western is increasing international tuition by thousands of dollars per student this year. And while international students collectively scrape together millions of dollars which none of them planned for, the university is cutting faculty budgets and maintaining over $50-million dollars in their operating reserve.
If you’ve ever complained about poor academic support, increased class sizes or problems with course selections, you should care about international tuition. The university can willy nilly change international students’ tuition to compensate for increased expenses — regardless of whether those expenses provide more value to the student body — which makes accountability impossible for the hundreds of millions of dollars the school makes yearly.
But why does there have to be a financial argument to justify having basic compassion for international students?
International students come here on massive student loans and the backs of families that have invested their life savings into their children’s education. They brave xenophobia and cultural shock in the hope that a Canadian post-secondary education will be a gateway to a better life.
My parents were both international students at Western University when I was born — some of my first memories are of my mom trying to keep me quiet in the library while she studied. Because of the countless sleepless nights my parents spent earning their degrees, I was afforded the privilege of growing up in Canada. It is thanks to them that I can’t possibly imagine how difficult studying abroad must be, because a quality, publicly-subsidized education has always been within an arm's reach.
Neither I nor them — and certainly not a university claiming that a conditional $500 emergency loan for international students suffices to protect its most vulnerable students — could ever imagine how difficult studying abroad must be during a global pandemic.
Most international students won’t leave Western because of this tuition hike. Western knows it can twist students that have already enrolled to pay more for their education, even if international students aren’t getting a higher value in return.
The university sells a vision of a priceless four years to international students. But there is a very real price tag on international tuition hikes — international students now face increased student loans, long-term financial instability and the validation of institutional xenophobia on our campus.
International students contribute so much more to our campus than their tuition money; Western publicly exclaims its pride for its international population because it recognizes that international students are a vital source of global engagement on our campus. If university is meant to provide a challenging and world-changing experience, the university should value its most diverse student population as more than a source of revenue.
If Western continues to send the message that they care more about their bottom line than they do about international students, fewer international students might choose to come to Western in the future. Certainly, higher tuition fees could keep less privileged international students from coming to our campus. If so, our community faces an incalculable loss.
Western’s power comes from the huge sums of money they unconditionally squeeze from us. Let’s start writing those conditions.
— Sophie Wu, second-year math and school for advanced studies in arts and humanities, member of UWO Receipts