International students at Western upset over tuition increase amidst COVID-19
LONDON, ONT. -- Western University’s fall semester is under two-months away. But some students say they are confused over their first tuition payment and ancillary fees.
Nistha Chakraborty and Kanvi Gupta are both international students from India attending King's College, which is an affiliated college of Western University.
Chakraborty and Gupta say their tuition has increased compared to last year, despite COVID-19.
“Western decided to increase international students’ tuition by $3,000-$5,000,” says Chakraborty. “That really impacts a lot of students and their mental health...it's way beyond the budget that we have planned.”
Gupta started an online petition to call attention to students’ concerns.
“In a situation where everyone is trying hard to meet their basic needs, half of the students even believe it's difficult for them to even come back to college for the following year due to the given pandemic and the financial situation of their parents back home,” says Gupta.
So far the petition has over 1,500 signatures.
CTV News reached out to Western University for comment on international students’ tuition.
Western responded with a statement saying, “Western monitors international tuition fees as compared to other Ontario universities, similar to Western, to make sure the tuition levels are comparable. All students are considered for admissions scholarships, and international students in particular, are eligible for the International President's Entrance Scholarships.”
Conversations surrounding tuition are also gaining traction on Facebook groups.
Carter Spence is a local fourth-year business student at Western who posted in a facebook group called Must Knows asking if international students saw a bump in tuition despite COVID-19.
“Within 20-30 minutes I had dozens of comments of students saying their tuition has gone up $2,000 this year alone in comparison to what they paid last year,” says Spence.
One student commented on Spence’s post saying, “It has increased by $4K for me.”
Spence argues that tuition should not be increased this year for international students since access to services are up in the air due to COVID-19.
He also reviewed his own tuition structure and notes that he is being forced to pay upfront for buildings, services and transit passes that he will not use.
“We’re paying a student recreation free of $85 despite the recreation centre being closed. We are essentially paying for a gym membership we can't use."
Spence also found that he is paying a charge for school athletics that have been cancelled for the fall season by Ontario University Athletics, and other ancillary fees.
In regards to ancillary fees, Western tells CTV News in a statement, “At this time, it has not been determined which services will be unavailable in the fall. If a service is unavailable, an adjustment to students’ ancillary fees will be made. This applies to both graduate and undergraduate students. We are currently monitoring the government's phased-return stages as they may effect some service availability.”
For Canadian undergraduate students there is no change to tuition for the upcoming academic year.
Western says that the University Students’ Council will be charging the London Transit Commission fee this fall and "have negotiated an addendum with London Transit from their original contract that would only charge the transit fee to students coming to campus for academic activity.”
Western adds that students who are “fully online” will no longer be charged.
Gupta says that she is waiting for the petition to reach 2,500 signatures. If it reaches that goal a letter will be written to the president of Western, Alan Shepard, asking for tuition costs to be adjusted for international students.
“We just hope in the end that they at least realize that everyone is in the middle of a pandemic with little to no income…we just want to not increase the fees at least this year,” says Gupta.
For more information on fees and financial support visit the Western University website.