International students say higher tuition will hurt

An agreement signed last week between the province of Nova Scotia and its universities will exclude international students from the tuition cap granted to Nova Scotia students

Left to right: Yu Lin, Ali Alghamdi, Turki Muhammed Algahtani, Nawaf Alsowait. Photo: Kaanayo Nwachukwu

International students say the province's decision to exclude them from the three per cent tuition cap granted to N.S. students makes it harder for them to study in Canada.

"It's so unfair," says Alison Lopez, a third-year Dalhousie University medical student from Malaysia. "I wonder exactly where they expect parents to get the money they are going to use to support their children."

She says the fact that N.S. chose to give the universities a free hand to raise their tuition fees for international students as they wish, is what makes the decision incomprehensible for her.

Lopez says she would feel better if she knew exactly what percentage the tuition fees are going up by.

"That would certainly make for a proper planning on my side and on the side of my parents."

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Alison Lopez. Photo: Kaanayo Nwachukwu

The provincial government announced last week it has signed a three-year Memorandum of Understanding with Nova Scotian universities regarding tuition fees.

Dalhousie University's fee calculator shows that international students pay almost twice as much for tuition as Canadian citizens and permanent residents pay.

For instance, whereas undergraduate Canadian citizens or permanent residents paid $6,845 this academic session for arts and social science programs at Dalhousie University, students from other countries paid $14,751 to study the same courses.

And the story is the same for other N.S. universities.

For 26-year-old Ali Alghmadi, who says he chose to come to Canada to study because he heard good things about the universities here, he did not expect this from Canadian schools.

Alghmadi - a native of Saudi Arabia and a Dal engineering graduate student- says the decision will not only affect him but also the government of his country.

"I will finish my education for sure because I'm being sponsored by the government of Saudi Arabia," he says.

He is worried that his home government might factor in this recent tuition decision before deciding which universities around the world to send its citizens to study.

Alghmadi's compatriot - Nawaf Alsowait, 25, who studies mathematics at the graduate level at Dal - echoes the same sentiments as him.

"Do the universities here see us as customers or as students?" he asks.

"I would have to really think about it carefully before doing my doctorate here, especially if my government won't be sponsoring me."

But Yu Lin, 27, a graduate student of economics also at Dal, sees the decision differently. He says because the university increased their tuition fees last year, that it might actually bring them down this year, since it has been given the liberty by the government to make the decisions.

Another Saudi Arabian citizen, who is doing his MBA at Mount Saint Vincent University, says he is not comfortable with the decision because it is not fair.

In Saudi Arabia, indigenous and international students pay the same tuition fees, he says.

He looks at the decision from an economic and political point of view.

"It is good for the economy of Canada for international students to come here to study," says 29-year-old native of Turkey, Mohammed Algahtani.

He says when international students go back to their countries and occupy important positions, they would say with pride that they attended Canadian universities.

"When you raise tuition fees arbitrarily, it would affect the quantity of students coming to Canada to study."

Dorine Schreiner, 29, who is from the Netherlands and studies journalism at the University of King's College, thinks that paying $8,000 more than her course mates is high enough. That is almost double what they pay and doesn't need more added on top of it, she says.

Schreiner says she understands why Canadians should pay less tuition fees than she does, "but universities benefit from international students in more ways than just economic."

She says the increase in tuitions will not affect her, though, because she will graduate this May.

The MOU signed by the Government of Nova Scotia and universities in 2008, which froze fees, expired last spring.

In February 2011, the NDP government said it would not negotiate a new agreement but would cut funding to universities by four per cent as well as increase tuition fees by three per cent for the 2011-12 academic session.



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