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International students use creative strategies to save money on costly degrees

Some international students are paying up to $55,860 in annual tuition expenses

By Rithika Shenoy and Naomi Holzapfel , in City , on October 25, 2017

International students are still flocking to the University of B.C. in spite of a dramatic increase in their tuition fees the last two years.

That may be in part because, even though some international students are paying up to $55,860 in annual tuition expenses, they are employing innovative strategies to cut costs.

While some are taking courses year-round, others are saving on tuition by taking advantage of their International Baccalaureate transfer credits to complete their degrees faster.

Transfer credits cut tuition by thousands

UBC freshman Arth Gupta from New Delhi is one such student. Pursuing a double major in economics and philosophy, Gupta needs 84 credits for his degree.

Gupta received 24 transfer credits taking IB courses in high school, and now he can take second- and third-year courses in his first year at UBC. Gupta’s annual tuition fees total almost $35,000, and his transfer credits help him save more than $9,000 in annual expenses, a total of almost $28,000 over the three years.

“The IB enables me to finish my degree faster,” Gupta said.

UBC’s Degree Navigator shows students the transfer credits they can use towards the completion of their degrees.

Gupta recalls his high-school counsellors informing him that the IB transfer credits would help by making the transition to university less hectic. But he never anticipated that his transfer credits would help him save thousands of dollars.

As international students are not eligible for most Canadian government loans or bursaries, the financial advantage of the IB transfer credits has become a loan and bursary substitute for some.


UBC’s close relationship with International Baccalaureate

Michelle Suderman, the international student development director at UBC, said a high number of IB students apply to UBC each year. Not all universities accept IB transfer credits, but UBC does. She explained that the university has a close relationship with the IB organization.

“In fact, we host a conference every summer for IB students in high school,” she said, “[and] we’ve been the host for [the IB] world conference for a number of years.”

Suderman confirmed that IB students are usually aware of this prior to joining UBC.

“I am confident that IB students are thinking very carefully about this when they apply to universities, and that their guidance counsellors have been talking to them about this,” Suderman said.

University projections had predicted that the number of international students would be unaffected by the tuition increase.

Ashley Lambert-Maberly, senior analyst at UBC’s planning and institutional research branch, confirmed this.

“While international students are less likely than domestic students to accept an offer of admission, international applicants have risen substantially, despite the increase in tuition fees,” he said.

Continuous struggle with tuition increase

UBC’s board is about to discuss more fee hikes for international students for future years.

International students receive advice at the International House

While there is a cap beyond which the provincial government cannot increase the tuition fee for Canadian students, this is not the case for the international student tuition fees.

There has been a 15-per-cent-increase in the international student tuition fees in each of the 2016 and 2017 academic years. Fees are expected to increase again by seven per cent in the 2018 academic year.

“We do hear from students that financial pressure is one of the things keeping them up at night,” Suderman said. “I am continually amazed at the creativity that students use.”