Grad Students Protest Tuition Increases

Fees Have Jumped as Much as 63 Per Cent Since 2009

Students protest as ConU’s Board of Governors meet. Photo Erin Sparks

Braving the early morning rain and cold, 25 graduate students marched outside of Concordia University’s MB Building on Sept. 30 to protest tuition hikes for international students.

In May 2009, Concordia’s Board of Governors voted for a dramatic increase in international students’ tuition. Graduate Students attending John Molson School of Business saw their bill jump by 50 per cent without any kind of warning from the university’s administration.

“The rise in tuition was an incredible shock,” said Mahmood Salehi, who came to Concordia from Iran to earn his Masters of Business Administration. “You put a certain amount of money aside and then you find out it isn’t enough. It was awful.”

After the board voted to increase international graduate students’ tuition again in the summer of 2010, Salehi now pays 63 per cent more than he would have just 17 months ago.

On Sept. 30, while protesters chanted slogans and waved placards, Graduate Student Association President Adnan Abueid presented two motions to Concordia’s board.

Abueid demanded that international students be refunded for the unannounced increases, that the university account for where the additional tuition money goes, and that Concordia restructure its tuition payment model to spread payments out into smaller sums.
Abueid’s motions were supported with a 2,700-signature petition but he received little support from the board as only a handful of its 40 members voted in favour of them.

“[The board] pretty much brushed it aside,” said Abueid.

During the board meeting, protesters made their way to the MB building’s fifth floor and chanted at board members through the conference room’s glass doors. A few minutes later the crowd exited the MB building and resumed their demonstration outside.

Although Concordia’s administration has largely ignored the GSA’s demands, former GSA vice president Erik Chevrier said the student movement has achieved at least one small victory.

“The administration has given us until Aug. 31, 2011 to pay for our tuition without penalty,” he said. “So they’re listening—but we still have a ways to go.”

In May, while the university hosted an international academic summit, Chevrier helped grad students stage protests and town hall meetings outside Concordia. Chevrier also helped launch the $1 campaign in September, encouraging students to pay just one dollar towards their tuition fees by the Sept. 30 payment deadline.

“We’ve consulted with the students for all these decisions,” said Chevrier. “So where we go from here depends entirely on what they want to do.”
Concordia spokesperson Chris Mota said the university does not plan on making any additional concessions to graduate or international students.
“All I can say is that students that are worried about their tuition should visit Student Accounts,” said Mota. “What I’m hearing is that they go there worried and they come out relieved.”

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 08, published October 5, 2010.