Last week, the Gateway reported that the University of Alberta administration will be raising the international differential fee (IDF), which is essentially going around the provincial government’s freeze on tuition increase. As an international student who has been paying approximately $2,000 for each course during the last four years, I was frustrated. The increase was not drastic; it is not a shocking amount. It was predicted too, since accessibility –for domestic students– has become an issue that the University administration has been more politically cautious of since last year.
As always, these are complex issues and we cannot jump to conclusions. Further, it is hard to advocate for accessibility for foreign students in a publicly funded institution during a time of financial difficulties. Again, this is not a huge increase that will severely limit the accessibility of education for international students. It has been this expensive for a long time, and the people who had planned to come will come. However, I believe that it is imperative that we critically think about the University administration’s attitude towards “internationalization” and the institutional marginalization of international students, which altogether raise questions about this University’s commitment to uplift the “whole” people.
I do not think that post-secondary education is a right. It is a privilege that should only be extended to the individuals who are committed to pursuing their academic passions. Furthermore, the cost of education for most public universities is subsidized, which means that not everyone is paying the actual cost of their education. Thus, perhaps one could say that it is fair and justifiable for the University administration to charge the International Differential Fee (IDF), which approximately triples international students’ tuition fee in comparison to that of the domestic counterparts. International students’ parents, after all, have not paid taxes in Canada; Albertans’ money should benefit Albertans, right?
However, I find the IDF and its recent increase problematic, for it creates an institutional divide between international and domestic students that raise questions about this University’s integrity. Universities are the bastions of intellectualism in our society. The purpose of the University is to foster critical thinking, creativity, and intellectualism, unhindered by external influences. To stand by this mandate is the institutional integrity that makes Universities unique institutions in our society.