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SAIT international students see drastic tuition increases

By Scott Strasser, September 2 2016 —

Although a post-secondary tuition freeze in Alberta is in effect for domestic students, the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology is hiking the cost of tuition for its international students in a big way.

International student tuition at SAIT will increase as much as $500 per class — nearly 60 per cent — for some programs this year.

“Fees for international students were adjusted for approximately two thirds of SAIT’s programs to ensure we are able to recover the costs of delivering those programs to international students,” said SAIT spokesperson Chris Gerritsen.

SAIT’s medical radiologic technology program will see a 56 per cent increase this year, from $27,171 over two years to $42,393, while its professional cooking program will jump from $26,600 over two years to $37,010 — an increase of 39 per cent.

International students at SAIT received letters in July informing them of the fee increases.

International student tuition is typically much higher than domestic tuition, as it is not subsidized by the government. According to SAIT’s website, tuition for international students ranges from $5,550 to $11,000 per semester.

The website says tuition fees for international students are subject to change.

“As a publicly funded institution, SAIT is responsible to ensure there is no burden to the taxpayers of Alberta to deliver programs to international students,” Gerritsen said.

There are around 1,100 international students at SAIT, with about 500 beginning their first year this fall.

Gerritsen said SAIT has a number of support systems in place to help international students with fees and expenses.

“We encourage any students concerned about their fees or expenses to contact the Registrar’s office to discuss the available options to ensure a successful path to graduation,” he said.

The Alberta government implemented a two-year tuition freeze for post-secondary institutions in September 2015, meaning universities and colleges in the province can not raise tuition rates until the fall of 2017.

But the freeze does not apply to international students.

“International student tuition has been an exception to any tuition regulation for at least the last 10 years,” said former University of Calgary Students’ Union president Levi Nilson. “It’s always been an issue for students’ unions and associations. That’s a very scary proposition, when tuition can be raised by any percentage and any time by the Board of Governors.”

Students’ Legislative Council at the U of C passed a policy on potential international student tuition increases in November 2015, outlining its stance against such hikes.

“It’s disheartening that we’re seeing some of the things we’ve been worried about [occur] at other schools,” Nilson said.

Numerous Canadian universities have increased international student tuition in recent years, including the University of Manitoba, University of Toronto and University of British Columbia.

Last fall, UBC’s Board of Governors approved international tuition increases of 37 per cent through 2018.

The U of C hasn’t increased its tuition rates for international students since 2014, when they went up one per cent. The national average is three per cent, according to Statistics Canada.

Current SU vice-president external Tristan Bray said the SU opposes differential tuition pricing. He commended the U of C for not taking advantage of the tuition freeze loophole.

“Historically, the U of C has increased international student tuition in proportion to the increases in domestic tuition,” Bray said. “The U of C has been exploring their options for what to do for international tuition and I think they’re going to stick to their commitment to not increase it for the duration of the freeze.”

Nilson agreed the U of C’s decision to not increase international tuition for the duration of the freeze was commendable.

“We were very happy that the U of C had no obligation to keep international tuition within that freeze, but they did anyways. They’ve made no indication that they’re going to be increasing it,” he said.

The cost of tuition for international students taking five courses at the U of C is around $10,000 a semester. Around 3,300 international students are enrolled at the U of C.

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