Humber College and IGNITE collided as the college plans to increase tuition fees for international students starting the summer of 2022.
“I come from a middle-class family, my parents are already struggling to fund my education. I can’t afford to give away the pennies I have left,” said Diana Tuganova, a second-year international student from Kazakhstan in the Advertising and Graphic Design program.
Humber recently announced it will increase international students’ tuition fees for the 2022-23 academic year, starting in May. IGNITE, the student union body will advocate against this increase as it “promotes affordable education and essential support.”
Current fees for international students range by course from $9,988 a year to $30,517.50 a year.
“I pay and pay and pay. Then I pay some more,” Tuganova said. “After paying the fees, I scratch at the bottom of my wallet and pick up the residue left.”
Andrew Ness, the dean of international students, was unavailable for comment.
From Mexico City to Tokyo, Humber is home to about 6,000 international students with more than one hundred nationalities. These students pay four or five times the domestic student’s tuition fee and many earn minimum wage or below.
“The minimum wage increased by a dollar but the living wage is much more than that. I thought I came to Canada for better living standards but the situation has become worse,” Tuganova said.
The student engagement coordinators and board of directors are talking to Humber’s leadership to provide international students with additional financial support and express any concerns. Their efforts have led to more than $210,000 to be set aside for monetary assistance for international students.
“While we are disappointed in the institution’s final decision, we will continue our efforts to ensure the student’s voice is heard,” IGNITE said in its statement.
IGNITE is calling on the Ontario government to provide tuition relief, implement a tuition freeze and increase the base operating grant fund for colleges. This will help reduce the burden of covering operational costs on international students.
“Our wallets aren’t empty yet but it seems like they soon will be,” said Amina Omarov, Tuganova’s mother. “Kind of feel like we are taken advantage of, the money we are spending was acquired by us by shedding our blood, sweat and tears.”
Tuition costs are outlined by the ministry of colleges and universities, Humber’s website says.
Humber did not reduce tuition fees during the pandemic. Although, most of the courses were delivered online, saying “tuition is not specific to location or mode of delivery. It is primarily for the instruction, assessment, and administration of program delivery, which is ongoing.”
“This is going to mess with our budget and expenses,” said Prashant Kumar, an international student from India who is in his second year of the Computer System Technician program. “Instead of decreasing, they are increasing our tuition? Very disappointed.”
International Students Impact On The Canadian Economy reads that international students contributed almost $20 billion to Canada’s GDP in 2018. This makes the 700,000 students (international students enrolled in colleges throughout Canada) the forefront of immigration.
“Humber needs to realize we are only allowed to work two days a week, with that little money we have to cover the cost of rent, transport and other bills,” Kumar said.
Kumar and others alike are concerned about covering the costs of living and paying bills on time. To them, paying next year’s tuition fee is equal to climbing Mt. Everest.
“I need to reconsider my priorities,” he said.
Canada is the world’s third-leading destination and Ontario is the largest beneficiary of foreign students. Indian and Chinese students are among the highest population of international students, comprising 34 per cent of students.
“The country is heavily dependent on international students and somehow we are not getting the treatment we deserve,” Tuganova said.
At Humber, new international students are required to pay the entire amount of their first semester fees as their tuition deposit. Returning international students must pay a mandatory, non-refundable tuition deposit of $1,000.
“I have high expectations from IGNITE, although, I did not expect Humber to make this decision against us,” Tuganova said.