Over the next three years Concordia will be spending $3 million on a pilot project to provide full tuition waivers to international students entering PhD and MFA programs at the university.
The object of the project, according to School of Graduate Studies dean Graham Carr, is to hopefully improve the quality and increase the number of international graduate students the university is attracting.
“Most other Quebec universities currently offer tuition waivers to international students at the PhD level and so clearly we have been in an uncompetitive situation or a less than ideally competitive situation in the past,” Carr told those in attendance at a Senate meeting on Feb. 18. “This is a very significant step forward, I think, in addressing that.”
The funds will be implemented in a staggered fashion: $500,000 this year, $1 million the following year, and $1.5 million the third year. President Frederick Lowy approved the project only a few days into his term in office.
The funds “will allow us to bring in approximately 35 new international students per year with the full tuition waiver,” Carr said. “This effectively doubles the number of international tuition waivers that the university has at its disposal when combined with existing waivers.”
Despite acknowledging the positive step forward for the university, Provost and VP academic affairs David Graham raised some concerns at the meeting that the inaccuracy of certain budget projections, made based on expected enrolment growth figures that have not been met, has taken a toll on how much they have to spend. “I don’t want to sound like the Grinch in this,” Graham said. “What that means, in practical terms, is that at the moment we are not projecting enough revenue to cover the totality of the expenditures that the [chief financial officer] projected, including that very significant incremental graduate support.”
Graham then advised senators that there was a difficult decision to make as to whether they want to retain lower enrolment projections and thus force the CFO to reduce projected expenditures, or to raise the enrolment projections to match the original budget projections.
Instead of influencing their opinion of the tuition waiver project however, this seemed to heighten the senators’ criticism of the Senate’s financial processes.
In fact, arts and science faculty member June Chaikelson, who chairs the senate’s finance committee, responded to Graham’s comment, saying “There’s a third choice and that’s change some of our other priorities in the university.” Graham said that he agreed on that point. “When I talked of reducing expenditures, that was precisely what I meant. That’s what reducing expenditures is about, is deciding what our priorities are.”
Of the new tuition waivers, Graduate Student Association Advocacy Manager Roddy Doucet said “We don’t necessarily think that this particular announcement goes towards alleviating on the ground problem of current students at Concordia who are already victims of the international tuition increase and the fee restructuring.”
“So, while we’re fully behind the initiative and we’re happy Concordia’s taking steps to attract better talent, you know it will only contribute to the richness of Concordia’s academic community, we encourage them to look for on the ground solutions for current students.”
A representative from the Concordia International Students Association could not be reached by print time.