Students rallied in front of Riddell Centre at the University of Regina Wednesday afternoon, calling on the institution to immediately freeze all international student fees.
The University of Regina Students’ Union organized the rally.
According to the URSU, one in five, or 17 per cent of students at U of R pay international fees.
International fees range in comparison to domestic student fees.
The highest difference is in the business admin faculty where international students were charged $8,242.50 more than domestic students in winter 2022 tuition fees.
The lowest difference is in the faculties of education and social work, with international students paying $7,185 more than domestic fees this semester.
According to the Saskatchewan government, international students contributed more than $222 million per year to the province’s economy, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Harshkumar Patel, international students’ director said it is unfair for international students to be charged three times more than domestic students when they are contributing to the country’s GDP.
Patel came to Canada from India in 2019. He said his tuition back then was around $18,000 and it has since gone up by 25 per cent.
“I took a loan to come here so we also have that thing in mind that we have to pay out student loans that we take before coming here,” Patel said.
“Apart from that, with Canadian government rules, we are only allowed to work a certain amount of hours. That’s 20 hours and nothing more than that,” Patel added.
“We are paying three times more than domestic student counterparts and domestic students can work up to 40 hours for full-time.”
Apart from tuition, Patel added that international students also have to deal with living expenses, like rent and grocery bills.
In response to the rally, the U of R said they welcome feedback from students on any concerns they may have about their educational experience.
“We appreciate and support their engagement, especially when motivated by the desire to make education more accessible,” the statement read.
“While we may not be financially able to respond in a way that addresses their specific concerns in this case, we recognize they are expressing the experiences of many international students and we will do our best to mitigate, given our financial capacity.”
The U of R’s statement added that international student fees are tied to domestic student fee levels and “change proportionally based on formula.”
“When determining international student tuition levels, the post-secondary sector in Canada has always recognized that domestic students and their parents/caregivers also support our institutions through their taxes.”
The U of R is in the process of coming up with its 2022-23 budget, which may include increases in tuition and fees. The latest budget projections indicate a $16-million shortfall for the 2021-22 fiscal year.
The university’s statement credits the COVID-19 pandemic as causing significant financial pressure with lost revenue from residence, services and international student enrolment among other things.