Proposed increases to residence, meal plan, international tuition fees put students at risk

News Staff - Mon Mar 12, 2018

On February 27,2018, the Board Finance and Property Committee recommended that the University of Alberta Board of Governors approve increases to international tuition, rent, and the mandatory meal plan at the next meeting of the Board of Governors. These increases will result in a 3.14% increase on international tuition, a 4% increase on rent, and an increase of up to 15% on the cost of the meal plan.

According to University administrators, these increases are necessary due to increases in staff wages and other costs. The University of Alberta Students’ Union, the Lister Hall Students’ Association and the International Students’ Association all strongly oppose these changes, which combined make post-secondary education uniquely unaffordable for international students.

The Board of Governors will be meeting on Friday, March 16, 2018, to discuss and vote on these increases. Meetings are open to the public, however they do not allow any recording or live streaming. We encourage all interested students and journalists to attend.

Housing Costs

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 less 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.”

Meal Plan Changes

The University of Alberta has again proposed changing the current Lister meal plan from a declining-balance model to a all-you-can-eat style meal plan. Under the current model, Lister residents pay $4317 or $4782 per year to load funds onto the OneCard, which functions like a debit card as students select which items to purchase at the Lister cafeteria and other outlets around campus. Unused funds are refunded to students upon leaving the University of Alberta. Under the proposed all-you-can-eat style dining plan, similar to the one currently in use at Lougheed Hall, students pay more for “anytime” access to the dining hall during its opening hours and can eat as much as they like; however, no funds are returned at the end of the year, and the option to eat elsewhere on campus is greatly reduced.

Like the current meal plan, the all-you-can-eat style plan offers two tiers, one for $4400 and the other for $4999. However, these tiers are not comparable to the existing plan – the cheaper plan allows residents to access the dining hall only five days per week, while the more expensive plan allows additional weekend access. The current plan allows students to eat meals seven days per week but distribute their meals as needed – for instance, a student could choose to have breakfast on Saturday morning but then have lunch off campus. Under the all-you-can-eat model, it’s more likely for students to opt for the seven-day plan in order to have access to the dining hall when they need it, but continue to eat at least some of their meals outside the dining plan. This means that students will be spending even more on food.

Surveys of Lister residents over the past two years have found that more than 90 per cent of residents oppose the proposed meal plan and prefer the declining balance model.

“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 Matthew Luzentales-Simpson, President of the Lister Hall Students’ Association. “An almost identical proposal was actually voted down by the Board of Governors last year due to student lobbying, but here we are again.”

The Impact on International Students

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 Akram Hammami, President of the International Students’ Association. “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.

Comparison Chart

2017/18 Cost Proposed 2018/19 Cost Comparison
International Student Tuition (Arts & Science) $21,009.60 for September-April academic year $21,668.40 September-April academic year -
Average Single Room Dormitory-Style Residence Rate $959/month + meal plan required in some residences $997/month + meal plan required in some residences -
Average Bachelor-Style Apartment Rate $988/month Edmonton market rent according to CMHC: $839/month
Average 1-Bedroom Apartment Rate $1211/month Edmonton market rent according to CMHC: $989/month
Meal Plan Costs (Lister) Tier 1: $597/month
Tier 2: $539/month
Flex $ included annually: $900
7 days: $625/month
5 days: $550/month
Flex $ included annually: $300
Estimated average food expenditures per person*: $375/month
Meal Plan Costs (Lougheed Hall) $581/month
Flex $ included annually: $400
Flex $ included annually: $300

*According to StatsCan, the average household in Alberta spent roughly $814/monthly on food, $559/monthly on groceries and $255/monthly at restaurants. Given an average household that works out to $325 per person per month on food; however, given that it is frequently more expensive to shop for an individual rather than in bulk for a family, we’ve estimated a somewhat higher food cost for an individual.

Event Details

Board of Governors Meeting
2-31 South Academic Building, University of Alberta North Campus
Friday, March 16 from 8:00 AM – 12:00 PM

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