Yesterday, approximately 600 students rallied in the Lister Cafeteria, peacefully protesting the increases to rent, the meal plan, and International student tuition. Led by Matthew Luzentales-Simpson, President of the Lister Hall Students’ Association, Akram Hammami, President of the International Students’ Association, and the Students’ Union Executive, students chanted “Hey B-O-G don’t raise my fee,” and “Eat Your Plan.”
The proposed average rate for a bachelor-style apartment on campus will be $988 per month following the proposed increase, and $1211 per month for a one-bedroom apartment. Currently, the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation’s estimated market rents for similar units are $839 monthly and $989 monthly respectively. By making campus housing up to 20 per cent more expensive than similar off-campus units, the University of Alberta risks bringing in fewer funds as students choose to move off-campus rather than pay significantly higher rates to live on campus.
“Clearly the university is pricing themselves out of the market and creating another problem for themselves later on,” said Students’ Union President Marina Banister. “At that price I would rather rent a better place a few blocks away at a cheaper rate and I expect other students will do the same.”
The proposed changes to the meal plan have, for another year, been rejected by Lister Residents. Moving from a ‘declining balance’ plan, akin to a gift card, to an ‘all you care to eat’ buffet-style plan will end up costing students more unless all meals are eaten within the plan. Both last year and again this year, more than 90% of Lister residents indicated strong opposition to the proposed plan in surveys.
“The University claims they listen to students, that they have consulted with students. It is clear that the University is not listening,” said Banister. “For two years now Lister Residence have stated that they do not want the new plan and yet they are being forced to eat it.”
“Residents have overwhelmingly said they prefer the current meal plan, but the University continues to bring forward the same proposal despite almost universal opposition from students,” said Luzentales-Simpson. “An almost identical proposal was actually voted down by the Board of Governors last year due to student lobbying, but here we are again.”
While rent increases and meal plan changes are bad news for all students living in residences, combined with the proposed increase to international student tuition, the proposed increases are especially troublesome for international students. An international student living in Lister could pay up to $1500 more in 2018/19 than they did this academic year.
“Costs for international students are entirely unpredictable,” said Hammami. “Students come to the University of Alberta believing they know what their tuition costs will be, but then it can go up by $600 or more each year. It’s completely unjust.”
Because the University of Alberta approves tuition, rent and meal plan increases on an annual basis without any long-term strategy or guarantees, students may find that they and their families have not budgeted enough to complete their degrees.
“The University clearly does not have a long term plan and is stumbling from one fiscal year to another,” Banister concluded. “We are enrolling for multi-year programs, and the University cannot tell us our cost for the next year until the end of current year. How are we supposed to plan for those increase?”