My name is Harshan Arampath Thankappan. I am international student from India. I am doing my second course at Conestoga College for Welding Techniques. I have completed Process Quality Engineering (Fall 2021) with Distinction. I was forced to take a second course to get a three year stay back in this country after my course to build my career here. I am coming from a middle-class family. My parents are living their retirement life. So, I had to mortgage my one and only house to get the educational loan for the studies and GIC (Total of $30,000=1.8Million Indian Rupees).
When I got my first acceptance for May 2021, the tuition fee was $16,351.16. I had to defer it to Fall 2021 due to covid, financial issues and delay in visa process. But in the next acceptance letter the fee changed to $17,416.34. That means there was a rise in tuition fee for $1065.18 in just 4 months. Really? We the international students are already paying 4 times more than a domestic student. When the course started, I saw around $600-$800 due in my student portal financial tab with no explanation. When I raised a query about this, I got a reply saying, there will be fee changes in every semester. I had to clear the debt by working in restaurants till 2am at night in the peak winter. Because the room rents and living expense in this country was also increased drastically. We couldn’t meet the expense with monthly GIC credit.
For the second course, I took a trade subject so that the fee is considerably less compared to other courses. Still, it is high compared to previous semester ($16,554.98). But later, they asked us to buy the welding tools and books (Which was not mandatory for the previous course) that may cost almost 1600$ or more. I couldn’t buy the text yet because of my financial incapability.
When I enquired other colleges, fee in Conestoga College is higher compared to all other colleges. But it’s a slight variation. So, every college are utilizing the immigration of international students. I could only blame the government for allowing this.
I was so depressed and financially weak to pay for second course. I had to top-up my educational loan for the fee from India. Now I am in debt for $46,600 with 11% interest rate in State Bank of India. That is 2.8Million Indian Rupees. I am living in Canada for past one year and I couldn’t even do a single penny towards my loan payment yet. Apart from this expense, I had to earn and spend a lot to bring my wife on a spouse visa to Canada. Without her support, I won’t be able to survive mentally and financially in this country anymore.
All the international students are struggling hard to survive in this country. We came from a country which is 11,500 km away from Canada, believing that this country will support us to fulfil our dream, give us a better lifestyle, help us to take us to next level. But sometimes, even after paying high-rate tuition fee, we are not even getting a free parking inside the campus. Back in India, the café in college campus is providing food in very low rate compared to outside to support the student life. I could see only CSI does something for the students in this college. Now we are staying in a bed space where 3 students are living in a single room which is not even a double bedroom and paying 450$ + utilities+200-250$ for food.
Since time is precious in this country, we can’t depend on public transport all the time since it takes hours to reach the destination nearby. So, student like us is buying used car. But above the money we spent on it for the maintenance, we are supposed to pay a lot for the parking as well in the campus.
How it can be made better
- Tuition Freeze for International Students
- Limiting Tuition Increases to 3% annually, the same as domestic students.
- Implementing Cohort Tuition (the price you pay for year 1 of your tuition, is the same price for the remaining years) for predictable tuition.
- Eliminating the $750 International Student Recovery Fee
- Increased core funding for colleges and indexing it to inflation
- Wave tuition fee for bright students
- Remove parking fee for students
- Provide low price food in stalls inside the campus
- Give good scholarships, awards, and financial support in every semester for bright students.
- Provide hostel facilities in low rate.
The current rates I am paying for tuition make me question if this is a need or if it comes down to greed by the college and government, but I am hopeful that sharing my story will lead to positive change.