Concordia Administration Keeping It Quiet on Rumoured Tuition Hikes

Lack of Dialogue Between University and Students Sparks Fear

Graphic Kelsey Litwin

There are 6,959 international students at Concordia University.

Rather, 15.9 per cent of current Concordia students aren’t from Canada. Excluding French citizens who pay reduced rates, these students have the highest tuition fees at the university. Some pay upwards of $23,000.

In 2008, the Quebec government deregulated certain university programs, meaning that these disciplines have completely lost provincial funding. The programs include business, law, pure sciences, mathematics, and engineering and computer science.

For these deregulated programs, Concordia’s Board of Governors has the final say on how much tuition costs. In June, the Board, comprised of university administration, faculty, students, and external community members, voted to raise tuition for these majors by 1.5 per cent to match the increase Quebec put on regulated programs this year.

Now, there are rumours that beginning in 2017-18 future international students in deregulated programs will be forced to pay even higher fees.

The university denies this, explaining that the Board of Governors’ finance committee is only exploring the idea of implementing a new pay system, “cohort pricing,” for prospective international students. No decisions regarding tuition or otherwise have been and will not be made until the committee reconvenes on Nov. 24, according to Concordia spokesperson Chris Mota.

“I think there’s a lot of assumptions being made and a lot of misinformation,” she said.

But some students, including the executive team of the Concordia Student Union, fear that cohort pricing is a guise for more tuition hikes. The fear, they argue, comes from a lack of consultation between the university and its students on the matter.

“I’ve been surprised and disappointed that the CSU has had to chase information,” said Lucinda Marshall-Kiparissis, the general coordinator of the student union.

On Oct. 28, the CSU released a statement that denounced “upcoming international tuition fee increases,” while calling for more transparency about the possible cohort pricing and deregulated programs in general at the university.

Cohort pricing, Mota explained, is a system where international students in deregulated programs would have a set tuition rate for the duration of their studies and would not face increases like the one that happened in June. She says Concordia recruiters from around the world regularly hear that prospective students and their families favour this consistency, even if it means they will have to pay more.

“If the game changes [during their studies], that’s a major concern for them,” Mota said about the benefits of having a set tuition rate. As part of the new system, tuition rates could rise from each class year-to-year, or cohort-to-cohort. Whether international students in deregulated programs would have to pay different tuition rates if they extended their studies past their expected graduation dates, or if they changed programs, has yet to be determined, Mota said.

Compared to other universities in the province, she says Concordia is behind in terms of raising tuition for international students in deregulated programs. “That hampers our ability to serve those students because we don’t have the same funds coming in,” she said.

Cohort pricing will not affect any current student, Mota says. It’s possible that as part of introducing the new system, the finance committee might also choose to raise tuition in these programs, she adds.
Marshall-Kiparissis says she recognizes the constraints of a lack of provincial funding and the attractiveness of cohort pricing.

“If they care now, I don’t think it’s accurate to say future international students won’t care what they’re paying even if they’re guaranteed stability.” —Lucinda Marshall-Kiparissis, CSU General Coordinator

But questions remain, she adds, like what did Concordia recruiters ask when surveying prospective international students.

“For the privilege of having [cohort pricing], would you be willing to pay thousands of more dollars,” she said, trying to imagine what the conversations were like. “I doubt that’s the question being posed [to prospective students].”
Because current international students in deregulated programs have already expressed concern about their fees, Marshall-Kiparissis says it’s doubtful that future students won’t care if their tuition increases more, as the university claims.

“If they care now, I don’t think it’s accurate to say future international students won’t care what they’re paying even if they’re guaranteed stability,” she said.

Mobilization Continues

Zepi Quinto is one of the administrators of the Facebook page “Concordia Against the International Student Tuition Hike.” She is from Mexico and studies international business, which is a deregulated program. Her tuition is approximately $23,000 each year without summer courses, she says.

Despite having had options in the U.S. and Spain, Quinto says she came to Concordia because it was a cheaper option and there were more opportunities post-graduation. The possibility that cohort pricing may introduce higher tuition each year for future classes is unfair, she says, because tuition is already so high for international students.

“If prices go up then less international students are going to apply and our university will be less diverse through time,” Quinto said. Some of her friends from Mexico wanted to study at Concordia but lost interest after they saw the price, she says.

A Facebook event called, “Red Day,” has been scheduled on Nov. 24, the day the finance committee meets to discuss cohort pricing. Quinto is one of the main organizers. She says it’s not a protest but a day of dialogue where students are encouraged to wear red, tack on pins, and sign a petition they want to present to the committee.

The CSU is also mobilizing against the possibility that cohort pricing will introduce higher tuition rates as well. Two international students—one from the John Molson School of Business and the other from Arts and Science—have been hired as official campaigners against international student tuition hikes, according to CSU External Affairs Coordinator, Aloyse Muller.

Campaigning entails being active on social media, posturing around campus, making class announcements, and generally trying to get other students involved and informed, Muller said. The contracts for the campaigners will last 40 days, with an option to extend it 15 more. They will each be paid $15 per hour for a total of 15 hours per week, which Muller says will come partly from his mobilization budget and the remainder of the CSU Orientation budget.

If the finance committee decides to implement cohort pricing at Concordia, their proposal will have to be approved by the Board of Governors at its next meeting on Dec. 14. There are two undergraduate reps sitting on the Board, including Marshall-Kiparissis. She says their job is to articulate the concern of undergraduate students, but it’s difficult because there are only two of them.

The university and the CSU have had good relationships in the past few years, Marshall-Kiparissis says, citing the different renovation projects they’ve collaborated on like Reggie’s and the new daycare space. Because of this collegial past, it’s disappointing there has been a lack of dialogue this time around, she says.

“I’m hoping the CSU and university can sit down to talk about what’s happening,” Marshall-Kiparissis said.