PHOTO COURTESY OF UBC

This past September, 190 students entered Vantage College, a new University of British Columbia (UBC) program that exclusively accepts international students unable to meet UBC’s minimum language requirements.

The program accepted students from a variety of countries including Hong Kong, China, Poland, and Russia.

According to the Vantage College website, students, who complete a three-term, 11-month first year, will be given additional academic preparation through “options such as smaller class sizes, alternative teaching methods, language instruction integrated with coursework, and increased faculty interaction”.

This year, students had the option of entering Vantage College from either the Arts or Science programs. Next year, programs such as Management and Engineering will be available.

According to Zachary Crispin, chairperson of the Canadian Federation of Students – British Columbia, English as a Second Language programs have suffered cuts across B.C., harming recent immigrants.

“The concern that the students have is there is a significant investment being made on education in which a priority is making a profit off of students,” Crispin says.

Vantage College will be funded exclusively by tuition fees, without provincial or federal aid.

On top of rising international tuition fees, Vantage College students will pay a $6,000 markup, which the Vantage College website promises will go towards “a year of academic English, orientation, and other supports and programs”.

At a December Board of Governors meeting, the university approved a 10 per cent increase to international tuition.

Even after the increase, international tuition fees at UBC are still lower than those at the University of Toronto.

In March 2014, The Varsity reported that international tuition fees could rise another 50 per cent over the next five years.

Although Crispin notes that for-profit education is not exclusive to UBC, he believes that chronic provincial underfunding is behind UBC’s turn to higher tuition fees as a source of revenue.

“[T]his idea of having for-profit international education or squeezing international students for as much as they are worth in tuition fees, is not something that is specific to UBC and it is a problem that exists throughout the system. The issue really stems from the fact that the provincial government is underfunding post-secondary education, causing universities to have to draw on other sources of revenue like high tuition fees,” he says.

Vantage College is currently on track for its 2017 goal of an enrollment of 1,000 students, and a $127 million residence building, Orchard Commons, expected to be built by the summer of 2016.

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