CSU Opposes Rumoured International Tuition Hikes for Deregulated Programs

Engineering, Computer Science and Business Among Programs Affected

The Concordia Student Union held a regularly scheduled meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 26, where they discussed potential new cohort pricing for deregulated international programs. Photo Kelsey Litwin

The Concordia Student Union is looking to hire a contracted student campaigner to advocate against possible tuition hikes for international students in deregulated programs.

The university will potentially be introducing a new system of pricing for these programs, which include engineering, computer science and business, according to CSU General Coordinator Lucinda Marshall-Kiparissis at a council meeting on Oct. 26.

She said the deregulated programs affected would likely expand to include pure sciences and mathematics, as well. They were also included in the undergraduate programs deregulated by the Quebec government in 2008.

If approved, cohort pricing will begin in the 2017-2018 academic year. It would mean that newly-enrolled international students entering one of the affected programs could expect to pay the same amount throughout the entirety of their studies, Marshall-Kiparissis explained. The tuition rate, however, for the next cohort of students could increase.

“It sounds fine on the surface,” said Marshall-Kiparissis at the meeting. “What we strongly suspect is happening […] is that it is to allow them to up international tuition for students in deregulated programs by potentially thousands of dollars each year, above what it would be if it were to keep the rate of inflation.”

The CSU’s suspicions, she said, were strengthened by the lack of transparency from the university regarding their plans. Referencing a series of emails, in which The Link was included, Marshall-Kiparissis said university administration were avoiding direct questions in reference to the timeline of these planned tuition increases.

When asked about the implementation of the cohort pricing—with specific points addressing proposed amounts, and transparency—Denis Cossette, Concordia’s new Chief Financial Officer, responded on Oct. 18 that university spokesperson Chris Mota was in the midst of preparing an informational document. Cossette said it would be shared shortly, although no such document has been made available by press time.

Hiring a campaigner would allow greater student engagement, given the rushed timeline of the campaign, said CSU External Affairs and Mobilization Coordinator Aloyse Muller. The campaigner’s duties include, “the production and dissemination of information materials to inform and mobilize students on the issue.”

The contract for the campaigner would last one month, from November to December. That person would be paid $15 per hour for a total of 15 hours per week.

Marshall-Kiparissis explained that to their knowledge, the cohort pricing plan will be presented to the Board of Governors’ finance committee at a meeting on Nov. 24. The CSU is unaware whether the committee will be voting to approve the plan at that point in time.

If it were approved at the November meeting, Marshall-Kiparissis explained, the motion would most likely be put forward for approval at a Board of Governors meeting in December.

An increase in international tuition was approved at a Board of Governors meeting in June. The motion moved to increase deregulated tuition by 1.5 per cent—keeping in line with the percentage mandated by the Quebec government for regulated programs.

Terry Wilkings, the former General Coordinator of the CSU, ensured that the meeting’s minutes included the CSU’s opposition to all tuition increases, as well as his own “concern regarding the trend taking place in Quebec which is leading towards the financial segregation of students.”

The CSU fears that the deregulation of these programs, which allows the university to set tuition as they see fit, will set a dangerous precedent will be set for other programs of study. “We can expect that this is a pilot program,” said Marshall-Kiparissis. “They are the canary in the coal mine.”

Update: The Link originally misinterpreted a quote, stating that the CSU fears that cohort pricing could act as an example for other areas of study. The Link regrets the error.