November 21, 1996

Some foreign students will pay higher fees

by Daniel McCabe

Students from outside Canada who want to study dentistry or management at McGill will have to pay much higher tuition fees starting next fall. The charge for foreign students in the Faculty of Dentistry will soar from $8,000 to $32,000. International students will pay $12,000 a year to study for a Bachelor of Commerce (the current charge is $8,000) and MBA students will pay $16,000 instead of the current $14,500.

The changes were formally approved by the executive committee of the Board of Governors last week. The higher fees will only apply to new students--foreign students already enrolled in dentistry or management will continue to pay the same tuition fees they are currently charged.

The decision by McGill to raise fees for the foreign students in these faculties was made before the Quebec government announced its own plans for raising tuition for all international students to the level charged by Ontario universities (see adjacent story).

McGill's decision to raise the fees for international students in its dentistry and management programs was spurred in part by Quebec's continuing cuts to McGill's funding. To safeguard the quality of the University's programs, administration officials argue that McGill has to find new ways to raise revenues.

Because the new tuition fees will exceed the levels set for foreign students by the Quebec government, McGill will not receive any funding from the province for non-Canadian students in these programs.

According to Vice-Principal (Academic) Bill Chan, the tuition fees previously in place for foreign students in these programs--even when supplemented by additional funds from Quebec City--didn't cover the full cost of the training the students received.

The Faculty of Management already offers specialized master's programs in economic policy management and in international management that eschew government funding in order to charge higher tuition fees.

The new tuition fee levels for international students in dentistry and management will cover the total cost of the students' education and give the two faculties some additional funding for improving the quality of their programs overall.

Chan thinks the education offered to foreign students in these programs will be a bargain, even at the higher prices. "We've been looking at the programs we offer our international students very carefully and we've been comparing them to similar programs in the U.S., Britain and Australia in terms of their costs and quality," says Chan. He adds that McGill's tuition fees will still be lower than the fees charged in other countries for comparable degrees.

In the case of dentistry, Chan says the tuition for foreign students will often end up being paid by the governments of the students' home countries. The first dentistry students who will be charged the new $32,000 rate all hail from the United Arab Emirates and are currently completing undergraduate science degrees at Dalhousie as part of an educational arrangement between the U.A.E., McGill and Dalhousie. The students will leave McGill ready for careers in dentistry and the U.A.E. government will pay for their training.

McGill hasn't had any foreign students in dentistry for over a decade, says Dean of Dentistry James Lund. While some have recently applied to the faculty, they weren't able to meet the program's entry requirements (this year the average GPA of incoming students was 3.65).

Despite the much higher tuition fees dentistry will charge foreign students, Lund is optimistic that his faculty will be able to attract qualified students from outside the country.

"We'll have to become much more active about recruiting students from the U.S. The $32,000 tuition is still considerably lower than what students pay at many American universities," says Lund. "And because our clinical program is hospital based, we offer students the chance to work with a much broader variety of patients than is the case in most dental faculties."

Lund says his faculty will likely accept five or six foreign students a year. "These will be in addition to our regular intake of about 25 Canadians." Lund believes his faculty has "more than sufficient laboratory and clinical resources" to accommodate the Canadians in the program as well as newcomers from other countries.

"Canadian students have nothing to be worried about," says Lund. "Our students will benefit from the arrival of other students with different backgrounds."

Dentistry could benefit in other ways as well. "We need to hire more faculty and the only way we'll be able to do it is if we can increase our revenues," reasons Lund.

Martin Guibord, president of the Dental Students' Society, speaks approvingly of his faculty's plan. "It's one way to bring in more funds for the program. Everyone is doing it. The Ontario government recently gave the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario permission to [substantially] raise their fees."

However, the new tuition rates in dentistry and management are troubling many international students throughout the University, claims Roopal Thaker, president of the McGill Association of International Students.

"The financial situations of international students vary greatly," says Thaker. "Some come from wealthy backgrounds, but many don't. If tuition fees go up in other faculties, McGill will start losing students who have the brain power to do well here, but who don't have the financial resources to afford the higher fees. In fact, before it became clear that current students wouldn't have to pay the higher tuition fees in management, I spoke with many management students from other countries who weren't sure they would be able to afford to stay at McGill."

Dean of Management Wallace Crowston says that part of the money from the higher fees will go to help international MBA students find jobs. "We work closely with our Canadian MBAs in trying to find them employment--it's important that we do that for foreign students as well." Crowston adds that some of the money from the higher fees will be used for scholarships for foreign students in his faculty.

"What we're charging isn't out of the ordinary," argues Crowston. "Some Ontario universities are charging their MBA students between $12,000 and $16,000."

When asked if McGill might raise tuition in any other programs, Vice-Principal Chan answers, "I don't want to predict what the future will be like. We're currently looking at how all our programs operate and we're considering a variety of models for offering programs."