The Lakehead University Student Union says it’s waiting for a response from the university administration board to concerns it raised about tuition hikes for international students.

International student tuition for many courses will increase five (5) to six (6) per cent this year, with engineering students paying thirteen (13) per cent more.

The student union met with university administration last month to discuss students’ plight and frustrations, said Prabhjot Singh Ahuja, LUSU’s vice president, operation and finance.

“The meeting was very promising and exciting. However, at this point, we are just waiting for them to reply,” said vice president, advocacy Amla Sandur.

‘Losing trust’

On Friday, some foreign students held a media availability at the university to tell their stories.

“Most international students come from less advanced countries. They are greatly affected,” said Alexey Babich, a final-year electrical engineering student from Kazakhstan, referring to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. “Some of their parents lost their jobs, and they are not able to pay those tuition fees now.”

Babich has not personally been affected by the tuition hikes, he said, as his father’s business survived the COVID-19 pandemic, but he has several friends who have had to stop school and leave town.

“They are losing trust,” he said about the university. “You can increase the tuition fees right now, and you will get some more money on the balance sheet. But in the end students are going to get disappointed. They are going to write bad reviews. Less students are going to patronize here.”

Dev Patel, a fourth-year psychology student, questioned why the Lakehead university was raising tuition fees at a time when coronavirus is impacting service levels.

“The main question is, if the classes are held online, shouldn’t Lakehead university be reducing the fees instead of increasing?”

Student Union leaders make demands

The student union leaders have presented the university administration with a list of demands, Ahuja said.

Those included:

  • Freezing or decrease tuition fees.
  • Increasing financial aid.
  • Extending the deadline for payment of tuition fee —students are currently being charged $100 if they fail to pay by August. 15.
  • Creating equal employment opportunities for foreign students on campus.

Right now, there are only around fifteen (15) jobs available for international students because they are not added to the work-study program, Ahuja added, and he would like to see that changed.

LUSU has also asked for a second student representatives on the Lakehead University board of governors and for efforts to increase diversity among staffs.

Lakehead has already committed to increasing bursaries for foreign students, Ahuja said.

Meanwhile, LUSA has established a so-called Myth Busters campaign aimed at enlightening people about the struggles facing international students.

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