Concordia’s Board of Governors (BoG) has voted to sustain a tuition increase for international students and to keep a new billing structure for graduate students which student groups have said amounts to a fee increase in and of itself.
Of the BoG’s 40 members, an unknown number attended the meeting on September 30. Of those, only 12 voted on the motions to repeal the increases, with nine supporting a repeal and three opposing. Due to an unknown number of abstentions, however, the motion did not achieve the required two-thirds majority.
Adnan Abueid, President of Concordia’s Graduate Student Association (GSA), submitted the two motions to the University’s highest governing body. The first motion called for the immediate recall of the tuition increases, and to “respect the demands” of a petition to the same effect, which organizers said gathered over 2,500 signatures.
Tuition for international students at Concordia has increased by 50 per cent for business graduate students, and 28 per cent for business undergraduates.
Students have decried the suddenness of the increases. Erik Chevier, of the not-for-profit Free Education Montreal, pointed out that, “Concordia has a very rigorous project to recruit international students,” adding that “if they do recruit them under [certain] conditions, they shouldn’t change those conditions at the last minute.”
According to Chevrier, the fee increases only represent a 1.5 per cent increase in revenue for Concordia’s operating budget. “For one student to get a 50 per cent increase obviously has a negative effect on their economic well being, while a 1.5 per cent increase really isn’t doing that much for the University,” he said.
A response to the motion issued by the administration argued that the tuition increases are permitted by the provincial government’s defreeze of Quebec’s international tuitions. The official response, inserted in the meeting’s official agenda, also emphasized that the University only retains 24 per cent of undergraduate international tuition and 35 per cent of graduate international tuition. The rest goes to the province and back to students in the form of financial aid, the response contested.
According to Chevrier, these figures neglect to incorporate rebates Concordia gets from the province after the initial forfaitaire, or fee.
Concordia has pledged to contribute 25 per cent of the increases to student bursaries and other aid, something both Abueid and Chevrier would like to see transparently documented. “We need some kind of report about where this money is going to go. How is this going back to the students?” Abueid asked.
Abueid is planning to bring forward a motion to reconsider the BoG’s decision, based on the fact that, of those who did vote, more board members approved than disapproved of the motion.
Concordia’s new graduate billing structure has also come under fire from the GSA. The new system compresses six tuition installments into four larger ones for master’s students, and from 12 to eight for PhDs. The University’s response says that the new structure brings Concordia in line with other Quebec universities and helps to close a $600,000 annual loss.
The new billing structure also requires that full-time students complete their Master’s degrees in four terms, and PhDs in eight terms, lest they receive a “continuation fee” of $400 per student per extra term.
Concordia’s administration response stated that “there was continuous inter-action [sic] with the Graduate Students’ Association and with all graduate students directly on this matter. The University has no intention of agreeing to the demands of some students that the fee billing structure be rescinded.”