International tuition to rise with inflation

UAlberta board approves 3.02% increase to international tuition, adds ‘sticker price’ to international graduate fees.


International students will pay 3.02 per cent more in tuition starting next fall.

The University of Alberta’s board of governors today approved the fee increase for 2017-18. The board also set a new “sticker price” for international graduate tuition.

“This is strictly an inflationary increase,” Steven Dew, provost and vice-president academic, said of the 3.02 per cent. “But the measure of inflation is not [the consumer price index], it is what we are calling the academic price index.”

The academic price index, or API, was developed with student input and reflects actual cost pressures facing the institution such as supplies, materials, utilities, and salaries and benefits. It’s a different—and more relevant—basket of goods than the consumer price index, which include things like food, tobacco and gas.

Although the province has imposed a freeze on domestic tuition and mandatory fees, it does not apply to international tuition. In an earlier committee presentation, Dew said the additional revenue from international tuition, about $2.4 million, does not erase the $3.9-million fiscal impact of the domestic freeze—nor is it meant to.

“We’re not trying to solve the financial woes of the university on the backs of international students but asking them to cover their share of costs,” he said.

The board defeated a motion introduced by Graduate Students’ Association president Sarah Ficko, who sought to limit the tuition increase to the consumer price index, currently at 1.4 per cent, at least for this tuition cycle. That would allow the board more time to consider whether the API should in fact be used as a cost driver for international tuition, she said.

International graduate tuition ‘sticker price’

The board approved a $4,000 “sticker price” for full-time international graduate students and $2,000 for part-time international graduate students. The move will not cost anything in real dollars because all international graduate students will receive offsetting financial support. In fact, the “sticker price” will only show up as a line item on a student’s tuition bill, but won’t be included in the final total, Dew said.

The board also passed an amendment to the motion that ensures it must review and approve any future changes to the sticker price.

Dew said international graduate tuition rates have been chronically underpriced at the U of A and don’t reflect the quality of programs. The reality, he said, is there is a strong link between the price of graduate programs and perception of quality, particularly among prospective international students.

“In a world where price reflects your competitive position, we have a problem because amongst the U15 Canadian counterparts, we’re pretty much at the bottom of the pool,” Dew said.

Charging students more on paper makes the U of A more competitive without causing “sticker shock,” Dew said. It’s just one part of a new strategy being developed for international graduate student recruitment, he added.

The new price does not apply to cost-recovery or course-based graduate programs in the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine. The board also approved a separate tuition increase for international students in the integrated petroleum geosciences, making it more competitive globally.