Money Issues at UoG

Friday, April 14, 2006

Written by Rachna Mutreja

The University of Guelph is a highly recognized institution within Canada. However, it does not have a prominent international reputation. When I mention to my friends around the world that I go to Guelph, hardly any of them know what Guelph is and almost no one knows how to pronounce Guelph. However, despite all this, Guelph has a lot of important researchers and scholars within its faculty and amongst its students. Especially at the graduate level, many students do very significant research, which leads to greater opportunities within Canada and outside of Canada.

There are two issues I want to bring up. First is the issue of increasing international student tuition and second is the issue of funding for students who are doing research.

Over the last few weeks, students have heard about the $4,000 increase in international students’ tuition. According to Ms. Whiteside tuition increase is supposed to imply a betterment of the quality of the institution. She said that the increase in tuition for international student tuition will attract more students because higher tuition implies the university is of a higher quality. Her rationale for this was that the university has surveyed students who chose not to attend the university and they found that students thought that Guelph was too cheap and hence did not think it was a good school. This idea caused a lot of controversy between the administrators and the students present at the meeting.

The increase in tuition, according to Ms. Whiteside, will change the University of Guelph’s ranking from 8th to 5th in terms of the cost of tuition. However, even if there is a change, our position compared to other universities will not change that much, according to her. This is the third year international student tuition is being raised and it is becoming very problematic for students. The University of Guelph tuition fee for international students is the lowest in the province and this apparently causes lost revenue in the budget while there is a decline in international student recruitment. This decision to increase international student fees to improve the reputation and quality of the university is supported by the President of the University, Dr. Alistair Summerlee.

As an international student, I completely disagree with the concept that price equals quality. I, among other students, came to Guelph because of its affordability and reputation. However, even though our tuition increased by 4% last year, the ranking of the university has gone down. This is a clear example that an increase in tuition does not lead to better quality.

As for the second issue, I am highly disappointed at the funding that students receive for their research. As an undergraduate student, I have just completed my undergraduate thesis in psychology. I just got invited to do an oral presentation at one of the top five universities in the United States (Stanford University). Their annual Stanford Undergraduate Psychology Conference accepts abstracts from psychology undergraduates across the United States and Canada. I was the only student to be accepted and although I applied to do a poster presentation, they were impressed with my research and want me to do an oral presentation. This was extremely good news. However, a flight to and accommodation in California is expensive and as an international student, I cannot afford it. I tried to find sources of funding all over the university and only received bad news that funding is not available especially for undergraduates. This was extremely disappointing especially considering what an honour it is for me to be presenting and representing the University of Guelph at Stanford University!

I think the university needs to realize that in order to eliminate deficits, there are other ways to compensate without hurting students’ financial situation. There is no logic in expecting more international students to attend the university when the tuition is becoming unaffordable and the reputation is not becoming better. Moreover, if the university wants to increase tuition along with the quality, they need to make use of opportunities to get their name and reputation around the world and prove that they have exceptional students who are great contributors in producing worthy research. Quality and reputation will not improve if they cannot even send students to conferences at any level at the university.

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