The latest research from organizations such as Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, Council of Ontario Universities and the Canadian Federation of Students paint a grim picture for international student attending a postsecondary institution in Ontario. Despite the growing international student population, their tuition has risen at a remarkable rate — meant to make up for reductions in government grants.

At McMaster, this gap is just as obvious. A domestic, full-time student enrolling in a program such as life sciences will pay $7228.79 in tuition fees whereas an international student in the same program will pay $25,923.88. International students also do not have access to needs-based scholarships McMaster offers, though they do have access to an international student bursary.

Likewise, due to stipulations in their student visas, international students are limited to working 20 hours a week off-campus during the school year and can only take on internships and co-op placements if they are explicitly a part of their degree.

It is unfair to expect international students to foot the bill of our education when McMaster is a public university. These funds should be coming from the provincial government. Targeting a group that is expected to pay such a high fee and actively recruiting them over domestic students is unethical to all parties involved as it drains resources from one group while taking opportunity from another. High tuition costs also ensure we limit international students to only those of means, which can alienate students who may want to attend McMaster in order to flee hardships or prejudice in their home country.

In addition, it is clear that this money is not being re-invested into supporting international students who attend our universities. McMaster’s International Student Services office mainly focuses on helping students with immigration issues and offers some programming like a mentorship program and English classes. The “Student Life” section of their website mainly focuses on getting international students to explore Hamilton and informs them of popular Hamilton events such as Supercrawl. There is little evidence of support services on their website.

“Considering how many extra fees international students pay, it would only be fair to us that other support services were put in place to ensure that international students’ mental and physical health is being cared for,” said Paula Daidone, a McMaster alumna. Daidone was an international student of McMaster’s Communications Studies program, and is currently enrolled in the McMaster Communication Studies Masters’ program.

Under “Campus Support Services,” the three McMaster Student Union-run services listed are MSU Spark, the Queer Student Community Centre and Diversity Services. Spark focuses on first-year transition, the QSCC offers peer support and programming for LGBTQ students and Diversity Services focuses on creating an inclusive environment for students of colour and other marginalized groups.

While these three services are undeniably relevant to international students, why is Diversity Services, a service geared more towards advocacy and education rather than support, listed when services such as Peer Support Line, the Women and Gender Equity Network, Maccess and the Student Health Education Centre all have on-campus spaces equipped with peer-support volunteers? The page reads as though someone looked through the MSU services tab 10 years ago and picked the first three that sounded right.

Similarly, only two MSU clubs are listed: McMaster International and Exchange Club and McMaster Outdoors Club. This is particularly odd given how many cultural associations exist at McMaster that attract many international students who wish to connect with those from their home country.

While this is likely because the ISS wants international students to integrate into the community rather than only befriending other international students, it exemplifies how little they understand the immigration process and how being surrounded by people with the same lived experiences as you can aid in the immigration process.

The website’s focus is clear: recruitment, recruitment, recruitment. International students are expected to crawl through the pages and pages of services and clubs the student union has to offer despite many groups explicitly supporting them. I’d willingly wager that they have not updated most aspects of the Support section of their webpage since it was created.

If a student were to exclusively use the ISS’s website to integrate themselves into the McMaster and Hamilton community, they would struggle.

If McMaster as an institution is going to focus on international student recruitment, the very least they could do is ensure that the immigration process is as smooth as possible outside of the legal aspects. Immigrating to a new country alone is a difficult endeavor, as is adjusting to university. If proper support services outside of simply helping them get into the country and speaking English are implemented, McMaster will continue to be a disservice to the international students who pay for bills.

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On Jan. 14, the McMaster Students Union held its annual State of the Union in the student centre.

The State of the Union is held every year for the Board of Directors to update and inform both the full-time, undergraduate students that make up the MSU as well as the general population at McMaster.

"Our mission statement is to draw into a true society, all undergrad students here at McMaster; so basically our job is to enhance the student experience at Mac," outlined MSU President Ehima Osazuwa in his opening comments.

In a way, the State of the Union is an avenue for the Board of Directors to highlight some of the key successes of the MSU over the past year. A few of the highlights noted by the BoD include an emergency bursary fund at $500 for any student, up to $12,000 in total, as well as several expansions to the management of the clubs system, including the addition of a second Clubs Assistant Administrator and the movement to an online booking format for rooms in Clubspace.

VP (Administration) Giuliana Guarna highlighted some of the important updates to MSU services during the past year as well, including the creation of new MSU service Maccess and the closure of MacGreen following the 2015-16 academic year.

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Despite this, while the BoD have been successful in a number of initiatives, it's worth noting that some projects, including the Light-Rail Transit system announced for Hamilton, have been in progress for years.

The MSU Course Wiki is another project that has been in the works for several years and has experienced some delays in taking off, but VP (Education) Spencer Nestico-Semianiw noted that it is expected to launch over the next couple of months.

The MSU also remains financially healthy, generating over $13 million in revenue in 2014-15. From its day-to-day operations, the MSU continues to operate on a slight surplus of $60,000, and D'Angela emphasized the efficiency at which student dollars were being utilized.

"From our operations, we collect about $2.6 million in fees, but spend around $9.6 million in supporting student life through advocacy, programming, services, etcetera," explained D'Angela.

D'Angela also noted that a second Budget Town Hall would be held by the MSU during February. The Budget Town Hall is one of several platform points that D'Angela promised to introduce during his term as VP (Finance), and the upcoming Town Hall will be focused on gathering student feedback on the focus of future MSU budgets.

You can download a copy of the 2016 State of the Union here or view the Prezi below.

In-article Photo Credit: 93.3 CFMU

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After paying a couple grand for course enrollment per year, students have to dole out another hefty sum to purchase courseware. Many classes require textbooks, with midterm and exam questions being drawn from their pages. Reluctant to spend what is often upwards of $100 on a textbook that is likely to be only opened once or twice, students are forced to either forego the textbook marks or pay the cost and walk out of the campus store textbook in hand.

MSU President Ehima Osazuwa has been very vocal about his hope to reduce tuition, and now he turns his attention to the other major absorber of student funds: courseware.

“We tried to see if we can tackle the issue by having more courseware printed at Underground, because right now the majority of courseware is printed by the University and it is significantly more expensive than printing through Underground,” Osazuwa explained.

Printing through Underground, a full service media and design center located in the Student Center, would reduce costs per textbook by around $20 according to Osazuwa.

Ultimately, however, it is at the discretion of professors to decide to make the switch. The biggest challenge lies in incentivizing professors to print through Underground.

“We are trying to tackle the issue as a one-on-one relationship with the professors, especially those who teach big classes and have a lot of students.”

Implementing this philosophy is up to the President of VP Finance Daniel D’Angela as well as Underground employee Justin Barnes, whose goal has long been to increase courseware printing.

“Last year we ended up with $19,000 in sales from courseware, with the first semester making up only $3,000 of that portion,” said Osazuwa. He hopes that the increase will continue in the years to come.

Yet Osazuwa does not want to stop there. “The second thing was to make a Materials/Textbook Committee, because in my opinion the future of textbooks is online.”

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By: Sophie Geffros

Community members in Westdale and Ainslie Wood are right to be concerned about the continued growth of so-called “student ghettos” in those neighbourhoods. Given that an increase in student residents leads to higher rents, fewer single family homes and an increase in high-end expensive retail outlets, it is hard to see this growth in its current form as anything other than gentrification in a mortarboard.

One of the great tragedies of gentrification is the rate at which it forces the elderly out of homes they have lived in all their lives. This is partially caused by the fact that businesses no longer cater to them — why bother when there are thousands of young people with ample disposable income — and partially by the rapid increase in the cost of living in a gentrifying neighbourhood. Since 2006 the population of Westdale over the age of 65 has decreased dramatically.

Ainslie Wood encompasses the area east of Osler, south of McMaster, and west of Longwood. A longstanding working class neighbourhood, the majority of the low rises and single-family homes were built after World War II to provide housing for veterans and widows. Many of the single-family homes were sold to veterans in the post-war period for a dollar. Unlike Westdale, it remained a strong working class neighbourhood until well into the 21st century — only recently has the number of student occupants overtaken traditional residents. Many community members have expressed the opinion that the closing of Prince Philip School and the construction of a 15-room student house sound a death knell for the neighbourhood.

To understand how the 18 to 24 year old population of Ainslie Wood could increase from approximately 15 percent in 2001 to 45 percent in 2012, we first need to look at McMaster University’s full-time undergraduate enrollment numbers, which have increased by 129 percent since 2001. In that time, the student population has more than doubled. In the 2009 Campus Capacity Report, it was noted that there exists a 30 percent student housing deficit, meaning that there is not space for 30 percent of students who apply for student housing. In that same period, rents in Westdale Village increased by over 20 percent. In their rush to cater to wealthy students, Westdale landlords had effectively made it very difficult for students — or anyone else — to live there.

Rents have increased in Hamilton as a whole over the past five years, no doubt in part due to the two percent vacancy rate in the city. Since 2012, the waitlist for social housing in Hamilton has increased by  six percent. At present, there are 6,000 households waiting for placement in city housing. Many of those households are currently waiting in shelters or in accommodation that is unsafe for human habitation. One of the most common complaints about gentrification is the way that gentrifiers move into a neighbourhood, raising the rents and changing the cultural landscape, and then leave. 35 percent of the residents of Westdale and Ainslie Wood moved there within the last five years.

Ironically, student renters are victims of this gentrification as much as they are perpetrators of it. It is not unusual to see single rooms in student houses be rented for 500 or even 700 dollars — rents that would fetch a onew or two-bedroom apartment on the East Mountain and in Stoney Creek. It’s no wonder that over the past ten years, the non-student population of Westdale and Ainslie Wood has decreased to one third of its previous size.

Students have a responsibility to our neighbourhoods, and to our city. It doesn’t benefit anyone to have the elderly and families with children pushed out of neighbourhoods so that unscrupulous landlords can charge outrageous rents to students. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen and heard these students express disdain towards living in the city centre or in the east end, and by extension, towards the residents who already live there. There is a pervasive perception of the downtown and the east end as dirty and dangerous, and not places where university students should even think of renting. It’s classism in its purist form.

Regardless of what neighbourhood you rent in, students must start thinking of ourselves as residents of a city. Neighbourhoods around the university are not de facto McMaster dorms, they are established communities with vibrant histories. Students must be more interested in integrating into communities, in supporting local initiatives around gentrification and transit justice, and in living with the local residents rather than displacing them. If we don’t, we can’t act surprised when locals object to more student housing in their neighbourhoods.

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MSU President Ehima Osazuwa’s phenomenally successful campaign last year was largely built on a distinctly ambitious platform. One of its most controversial points was a promise to address the issue of increasing tuition and student expenses. His ability to tackle a post-secondary policy giant during a one-year long mandate was met with much skepticism.

In 2015, the average tuition of Canadian universities saw a 3.2 percent increase to $6,191, an increase of more than double the rate of inflation. The province will spend about $7.8 billion dollars across its post-secondary and training sector, just under six percent of the total budget for the 2015-16 year.

Now well into his term, Osazuwa along with a Tuition Task Force and members of the Board of Directors, are tackling these issues through a number of specific initiatives within the MSU and with its partners.

The provincial government’s current tuition framework, which outlines the post-secondary education funding model, is set to expire in 2017 and the government has launched consultations on “modernizing” the funding formula. With the province running a deficit and a projected decrease in post-secondary enrollment, the government could easily look to students to bear most of the financial burden. For the MSU and fellow Ontarian student unions, the 2016-17 school year is a crucial period to develop tuition advocacy strategies.

The new policy paper seeks to outline a more detailed, extensive, and long-term policy to represent the MSU’s views on tuition. The recently passed Tuition Policy includes a number of requests, principles and goals, and is set to be finalized in on-going SRA meetings.

The paper calls for the implementation of a tuition freeze until the federal or provincial government is able to contribute “one dollar for each dollar of student contribution.” The paper argues that as tuition outpaces the rate of inflation and the median household income, the current framework needs to see more investment from the government or at the very least, a cap on the increase of tuition in accordance to inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index. The document stresses the need for more regulation in the face of rising student debt.

“While the topic of tuition may appear divisive, the MSU believes strongly in the ability of dialogue and competing interests and protects students from cumbersome and inaccessible student debt,” declares the current draft of the policy paper. Despite its stated desire to accommodate for the diverse views on tuition issues, it does not shy away from arguing for specific tuition frameworks.

The paper includes long-term recommendations, including that “the government should create a strategy to adopt a publicly funded, no upfront tuition model.” The document cites “The OUSA Paper on Alternate Cost Recovery Models,” which describes the system of deferred tuition based in Australia and New Zealand. These models allow students to delay their tuition payments until their graduation, as well as offering several financial assistance programs. In Australia, the upfront tuition model also gives a 20 percent discount to students who choose not to defer tuition.

In addition to defining the MSU’s stance on these issues, the policy paper also alludes to some of the current projects that the student government is currently undertaking.

Over the past month, Osazuwa and VP (Education) Spencer Nestico-Semianiw have met with the university’s Board of Governors to present a number of requests. These include the desire to increase the amount of needs-based scholarships, which recognizes the effects financial strain can have on the academic performance required to earn merit-based scholarships. “I’d like to see some of that funding come from the four million dollars McMaster uses for merit-based scholarships,” explained Nestico. “I think that merit based scholarships are quite inequitable, so using that funding into needs-based would better target students who actually need the money.”

To increase transparency, the MSU is also pushing for an activity-based funding model, which more easily allows students to understand what exactly their tuition is being used for in the university. Osazuwa believes this to be an easy change to implement. It will also be accompanied by a Tuition 101 information campaign, and a letter writing campaign directed to the provincial government in the next term.

Osazuwa thinks that one of the MSU’s most important requests to the University is the removal of interest on late tuition payments, most often forced on students who rely on OSAP. This will likely be the most difficult request to negotiate and implement with the university, but Osazuwa wants to achieve it before the end of his term.

In addition to on-campus advocacy campaigns, the MSU has already introduced an emergency bursary for students in need of up to $500. The $8,000 budget allocated to the bursary program was quickly exhausted after its introduction in September, and by the end of the month, the MSU gave out approximately $12,000. The additional funds were drawn from saved money from other budget lines.

Vice President (Finance) Daniel D’Angela explained that the MSU is looking to revise the program, and is considering alternative sources of funding to sustain it. So far, no definite changes have been made. D’Angela said that the MSU is not looking to make the requirements for the bursary stricter, but noted that the emergency bursary is not a sustainable solution.

“I think our main goal is to provide the assistance that we’re doing through systems that we can but then work on issues to ensure that no student needs a bursary or needs an emergency bursary. I think that’s what the MSU’s goal is and what its responsibility should be. We can do some of the small things like that but I don’t think we should be just taking a lot of money from one set of students and just giving it to another,” said D’Angela.

While Osazuwa noted that the Board of Governors was receptive to some of the recommendations and initiatives the MSU is seeking to promote, the Board’s decision-making powers are limited. McMaster’s Chief Financial Officer Deidre Henne will discuss these requests with the Board of Directors, and is impressed with their initiatives and ideas so far.

Henne explained that currently the university gets the majority of its operating budget from tuition and grants. The province is in a deficit, and looking to change the way they provide operating grants, while the MSU and other student unions and advocacy groups are hoping to fight the increase in tuition.

“There’s a real opportunity for student bodies now, at the same time that the government is looking to change the funding model in 2017, to speak with government and make sure that the province understands, not just from a University perspective … but more importantly from a student perspective of what is important to them,” explained Henne.

The Board of Directors met with Henne this week, and discussed the MSU’s requests in relation to her role on the Council of Ontario Universities, and on the technical advisory committee to the Ministry of Education’s financing model.

In response to Osazuwa’s personal goal to end interest fees on late tuition payments, Henne stated, “I’m going to say it’s difficult, and that’s just the truth of it because we want to collect tuition fees as early in the process as possible for the overall financing and budgeting of the university.”

The university’s current financial system runs with the assumption that it will operate with most of its money paid on time. If payments were to arrive later in the term, the university would have to seek assistance from a lending facility to cover the first few months of operation.

For the hope of implementing a province-wide tuition freeze, Henne says that it has to accommodate declining enrollment and deficit issues Ontario is facing. Henne suggested, “what Ehima could do, is take his tuition request for zero percent increase and request the gap from the enrollment gap to be redirected as a supplement for this lack of tuition increase. It’s yet another alternative in the mixed pileup of complexities. It’s a lofty goal and I admire Ehima for taking it on. I feel his group has a lot of capability.”

The MSU has put student tuition and debt at the forefront of its priorities this year, following Osazuwa’s landslide win. However, with his term coming to an end and a new presidential election on the horizon, the state of affordable tuition advocacy as a long-term priority for the MSU remains to be seen.

With the Ontario government seeking input on the future of its funding formula, this is an opportune time for the MSU to be active in the tuition conversation. Osazuwa believes that both the student union and the University are interested in discussing student financial issues and stressed the need for collaboration between all stakeholders.

“We can run campaigns, we can have emergency bursaries, we can have our tuition policy paper but, at the end of the day, the best we can do is continue to lobby to the university and I think the university’s receptive to the idea of a more affordable tuition. We can’t change the price of tuition just by ourselves.”

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On Thursday, Sept. 17, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance visited the McMaster campus as part of their larger promotional efforts in member schools across the province.

OUSA’s visit to campus gave The Silhouette a chance to discuss its priorities for the year with Spencer Nestico-Semianiw, VP (Education) of the MSU and OUSA’s president, and Sean Madden, the organization’s Executive Director.

Every year, OUSA releases policy papers on six post-secondary education topics in Ontario that dictate the organization’s lobbying and advocacy on the specific issues. For the 2015-16 year, OUSA will focus on teaching assessment and student success.

However, OUSA’s priorities this year extend beyond the annual policy papers. In addition to the policy papers, the organization’s research and advocacy efforts will also be put into the timely topics of university funding and the province’s tuition framework.

Last month, OUSA released its submission on the university funding formula for the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities. The MTCU launched consultations on modernizing the formula in May 2015.

The funding formula determines how the provincial government distributes funding to individual universities.

Among other recommendations, OUSA’s submission criticizes the current formula for ignoring demographic shifts, failing to enhance differentiation and not reflecting true relative costs of education.

Speaking to the true cost of education, Semianiw believes that the province’s basic income units– which reflect the idea that the cost of educating different students in different programs varies– are out of date.

“A lot of the changes that we’ve seen in terms of how programs are getting funded isn’t so much reflective of the actual cost of the program,” said Semianiw.

“Institutions on an individual basis have found ways to transfer funds and make sure it’s working but from a provincial standpoint, that system needs to be re-evaluated.”

OUSA is also advocating for a higher proportion of the funding given to universities reserved for specific initiatives that enhance student life.

“I don’t want to throw any of the fine people who run universities under the bus, but it’s kind of no coincidence that the amount of money that’s spent on salaries and benefits is pretty much exactly the amount of money that the government doesn’t strictly set aside for other purposes,” said Madden.

“We want to add a little more accountability and transparency and limit the proportions that are unrestricted without being unreasonable.”

Madden noted that the current funding formula erroneously rewards enrolment growth, when in fact, the province has reached its peak enrolment rates and many universities are and will continue to be under-enrolled according to the principle.

Overall, like the province, OUSA wants to see a funding formula that is up to date with current demands and focuses on bettering the student experience.

The conversation on the province’s tuition framework, however, has not officially begun. The framework is due to be reviewed in the 2016-17 academic year, but Semianiw is attempting to lay the groundwork for the topic during his yearlong mandate.

“Universities are allowed to increase tuition three percent  on average [per year] per institution. Five percent for some programs. We want to see a fully funded freeze. We don’t want to see tuition keep increasing for students,” said Semianiw.

Madden says that the results of the funding formula consultation will have a direct impact on the tuition framework conversation.

“The funding formula is going to control the way funding flows. If it magically it gets more efficient, we can make an argument for lower tuition. If it constrains the amount of flexible money they have, then that’s going to impact their costs.”

Photo Credit: Spencer Nestico-Semianiw

By: Christine Chow

Whether it’s the continuous Facebook notifications, the Campus store queue that never seems to dwindle over the first week of September, or the throng of people glancing doggedly at their phones and then at each other outside of MUSC Starbucks, nothing says “new school year” quite like the painful business of buying textbooks, or the subsequent hassle of getting them off your hands.

Gone are the days of meaningless cost replacement values, where returning your badly battered textbook to the teacher at the end of the semester was all it took to pay your due. University is a whole different ball game, and when a brand new textbook can cost you anywhere from $50 to $200, you’re better off saving yourself some money and buying them used.

In most cases, this is true, so long as you take the proper precautions to ensure you’re buying the current edition, or, if you do the latter, that it won’t compromise your learning experience.

If you’re having difficulties dumping your books on someone else once you’re through with them, know that you’re not alone. In the evolutionary arms race between used textbook sales and store-bought copies, the odds are stacked against you.

New textbooks now often come in packages with codes for online software that make up part of a course’s marking scheme. Even in cases where a used textbook for the course appears ideal, waiting to sell proves risky with sudden switches to newer editions.

Whether the so-called newer edition actually contains any useful, updated information or just a newly designed cover with renumbered pages is debatable. What is not, however, is the decreased market value of your textbook. Spamming the used sales group on Facebook is no longer going to cut it. So what are your alternatives?

Consider expanding your buyer base by using the MacInsiders marketplace or posting a Kijiji ad, the latter of which supports finding ways to reach out to students at different universities using the same textbook. Chances are they might be interested or even willing to pay more, depending on how the textbook in question is packaged and sold at their school.

If your book has truly reached the end of its lifespan, consider keeping an eye out for events like McMaster Science Society’s Textbook Swap Day, or donating it to Shinerama’s Textbook Drive in MUSC 201, which is taking textbooks until October.

Selling your textbook ASAP can make a huge difference. The sooner you get it off your hands, the less likely it is that you’ll have to deal with the blowback of a new edition. So if you’re taking a course in first semester, try to sell it in the second instead of waiting for the next year to swing around. Selling sooner, for example, right after exams, might also mean that the Campus Store will buy back your textbook at the Hole in the Wall for a higher price.

To keep up with new editions, ask your professor to tip you off at the beginning of the term about whether editions will be changed in the upcoming year. This could prove useful in deciding how much to invest in a copy, as loose-leaf and PDF versions, despite being harder to sell, might offer a more viable alternative. Whatever you do, don’t let your textbook sit on your shelf, where it’ll only collect dust. Don’t fool yourself. You’ll never pull it out again for a bit of light—er, heavy—reading.

By: Celestina Aleobua

Canada, a nation that prides itself for its multiculturalism, being a “melting pot” of all cultures, and with equal rights for all, has failed to provide substantial justification for why international students pay significantly higher tuition fees than domestic students.

Currently, international students pay almost four times the amount of fees that local students pay, though the amount can vary by school or degree. However, international students do not receive any added benefits. International and domestic students share the same facilities, the same professors and tutors, and the same bus services. Additionally, they are not eligible for most scholarships, or for financial aid services such as the Ontario Students Assistance Program (OSAP) that are available to local students. This begs the question of why there is a huge disparity between local and international student fees.

One common argument justifying the high price of international student fees is that international students do not contribute to the Canadian economy, because they do not pay taxes, and should therefore be charged more in tuition. International students may not pay income tax, but they definitely contribute to the economy in terms of expenditure. A 2012 study by Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development Canada on the Economic Impact of International Education in Canada said, “in 2010, international students in Canada spent in excess of $7.7 billion on tuition, accommodation and discretionary spending; created over 81,000 jobs; and generated more than $445 million in government revenue.”

The report also goes on to state that international students in Canada make a significant contribution to the economy, and it recommends that Canada “ensure that international students are recognized and supported commensurate to their importance to Canada.” Educational institutions recognize that the international students that can currently afford their high fees are those that are affluent, and they share this view of these students being valuable. However, this view puts them at a huge disadvantage.

The arguments of domestic students agreeing with the high international student fees stems from the expectation that there be available space for all Canadian citizens in educational institutions, and that there should be a priority for admissions given to local students over international students. Institutions limit the amount of admissions given to local students and free up space for international students in order to reap the full financial benefits.

Educational institutions excuse general increases in fees with lack of funding from the government. According to the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, increments in local student fees are capped at three percent every year, however for international students, no such limit exists. International students are vulnerable to tuition increments at the discretion of the educational institution. This is simply unfair.

Entering Canada as an international student is like being the eleventh man in line at the opening of a new H&M. The first ten people get a discount, and the rest settle for the inflated prices. Canada comprises of many different cultures, and in this sense, Canadian students are no different from international students. It is high time Canada includes the eleventh man in the discount club.

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