Although the two motions looking to ease the financial burden of international and graduate students may have been denied at last Thursday’s Board of Governors meeting, the Graduate Students’ Association’s president doesn’t think the day was a total loss.
“I look at it as a kind of win, because we had at least nine or 10 governors who voted in favour, which tells us that there is support for our demands,” said Adnan Abueid, who is hoping to bring the motions before the board again.
While several governors voted against the motions (which were taken together), most didn’t raise their hands at all, preventing the two-thirds majority required to pass.
The first of the two bills called for the board to respect the will of the 2,500 people who signed a petition to cease further tuition increases for international students.
In the wake of the deregulation of certain programs by the provincial government, the Board of Governors voted in May 2009 to up the tuition for international students beginning in the fall 2009 session by 50 per cent (an extra $6,000 per year) for graduate business programs, by 28 per cent (an extra $3,199.92 per year) for business undergrads, and by 17 per cent (an extra $1,950.24 per year) for undergrads in engineering and computer science. Tuition was again increased for the same students for the summer 2010 session.
The GSA’s first motion also demanded that Concordia’s international students be immediately reimbursed for the above-mentioned costs and that financial transparency be provided to discover how the money stemming from the increases has been spent.
“The increases are troubling because you have students arriving in Montreal who don’t have awards or support from their own government,” said Abueid, who lashed out at the university for failing to properly inform the international student population of the modifications to tuition.
He also inquired as to why Concordia doesn’t charge international students resident tuition fees in its PhD programs, as is the case at McGill and UniversitÃ© de MontrÃ©al. According to university spokeswoman Chris Mota, the reason is budget-related.
“It is important to remember that the government charges international students the same rate at all universities, but at McGill they have decided to absorb the difference in their PhD programs in order to charge international students resident tuition fees,” she stated. “This is just not an option at Concordia right now when you look at finances.”
The GSA’s second motion called for the board to rescind the new billing structure for graduate students, which requires them to pay their tuition fees in larger lump sums.
“‘When you think of international students who also have that 50 per cent increase, it’s a lot of money to pay up front,” said Abueid.
As this is a transition year for the billing structure, grad students have until Aug. 31, 2011 to pay their tuition fees.
According to the board, the new system aligns Concordia with other Quebec universities and allows for access to an annual sum of $600,000 for funding graduate programs and student support.
Not good enough, according to Abueid. “‘It’s only certain students who benefit from this kind of support, but yet it’s all students who have to pay.”