Some students camped out on campus for five days to oppose the proposed increase.
Madeleine Stinson, the Dalhousie Student Union president, said it’s been a difficult year for students. She said many couldn’t find work last summer to help pay for university and they have had to take classes online during the pandemic.
“Many students I’ve talked to don’t feel like they belong to Dalhousie because they don’t trust the institution,” said Stinson.
During this week’s board meeting, Gitta Kulczycki, the vice president of Dalhousie’s budget advisory committee, said the university is moving to increase revenue and cut expenditures.
The university says government funding is not keeping up with costs.
Kulczycki said recruitment is crucial to generating revenue. Dalhousie’s domestic recruitment has increased 11 per cent while international recruitment has fallen by 10.4 per cent. International students pay 2.6 times more for tuition on average than domestic students.
The protest began April 16 and culminated with a rally just hours before university governors voted Tuesday for the tuition increase.
The student union had sought a tuition freeze, something that hasn’t happened in the province since 2008.
In 2019, the province and its universities agreed to cap tuition increases at three per cent a year. The five-year agreement is set to continue until 2024.
Government grants and tuition makes up 90 per cent of Dalhousie’s revenue. The province increased the grant by one per cent this year, giving the university $223.1 million.
The board said cuts and tuition increases can be expected to continue if the grant money does not increase.
Dalhousie proposed a three per cent hike for domestic students, but international students are getting the same hike plus $1,472 annually.
International students face a previously approved 8.1 per cent annual increase.
Ema Fourie, a Dalhousie science student from South Africa, said she thinks the university is “just exploiting its international students in a time of crisis when many were forced to go home.”
In 2019, a full-time returning international student in their undergrad paid $5,044 in tuition alone per term, and new students were required to pay $6,538.
They are not eligible to apply for Canadian student loans or student assistance programs of any kind for Canadian citizens or residents.
A domestic undergrad student completing an arts degree has tuition costs of $4,050 per term.
Fourie said she was living in a Dalhousie residence last year when the pandemic started. She was told she had to “go home immediately.”
She was eventually refunded the money she had paid to live in residence, but had to stay with a friend until she could find somewhere to live in Halifax.
“I, along with all other international students, are being exploited in this difficult time when many people lost their jobs and family,” she said.
Stinson said this fight is not over despite the board’s tuition decision.
“If folks think that [the] vote means that the conversation is over, unfortunately, they’re wrong. And we’re definitely going to keep advocating for students as long as it takes.”