The cherry blossoms are blooming once again, which signals the UBC administration to perform its annual ritual of increasing tuition 2% across the board for domestic students. This comes on the heels of a 50% increase in international student tuition over three years approved in late 2015. In announcing the domestic tuition increases (along with changes in non-instructional fees), the UBC administration launched a consultation process where students were invited to submit their comments through an online feedback form. The consultation process concluded on March 22, 2016.
The Executive of CUPE local 2278, representing UBC’s Teaching Assistants, Markers and English Language Instructors, stands in opposition to all of these increases and the current consultation process. We believe that higher education is a fundamental human right, enshrined in the United Nations International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights. We understand the challenges UBC has to face to operate as an institution in the midst of ever-increasing austerity from the Provincial Government. However, BC students currently incur the highest average student debt ($34,886) compared with students in other provinces (according to the 2013 BMO Student Survey), and the Provincial Government charges higher student loan interest rates (8%) than any other jurisdiction in Canada. As students have a right to an affordable education, it is then the University’s duty to protect this right as a provider of education. We are appalled by the actions of the University when its funds are not allocated in ways that directly benefit the lifeblood of the university- its students, staff, and faculty. We are appalled that the quality of education is not prioritized over other superficial, image-based concerns.
We are also opposed to the current consultation process. We agree with other concerned student groups that the consultation is not about whether or not the tuition increases should occur at all, but instead where the funds should be allocated once the increase has passed. Consultation with students is not respectful and meaningful when the outcome of the consultation is fixed in advance.
Further, we would like to remind our members that tuition for domestic students is currently capped at a 2% maximum increase per year. This cap was intended to reflect Vancouver’s rate of inflation, but we are aware that there has been lobbying to remove this cap, which serves as at least a modicum of protection for domestic students. We further encourage all stakeholders at UBC involved in these discussions of tuition, especially UBC administration, our members, and other students at UBC, to reflect on the discourse surrounding issues of tuition. Are we a “world-class” university when we are unable to provide an affordable education accessible to students from diverse backgrounds? When we are told that “the money is not there”, is it only because existing resources are used to bolster UBC’s image instead of using them to deliver a quality education?
Finally, we encourage all of members of CUPE 2278 to learn more about the proposed tuition hikes through sources such as UBC’s consultation website, the Ubyssey, the Talon, and social media; and be involved in activism surrounding issues of tuition.