By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
A controversy has erupted in academic and student circles over the University of British Columbia’s Vantage College. The college’s campus is under construction and expected to cost the university C$ 127 million but is beginning its enrollment
Canadian Citizens are prohibited from enrolling at Vantage College. The college is marketed toward wealthy foreign students mostly from China. Tuition and living expenses are stated to be over fifty thousand dollars per year for the privilege of attending Vantage. The university offers higher perks to these students than what is afforded the university’s common students.
Student groups are calling the approach of UBC as elitist and creating a privileged class that is against the core values of a society of equal individuals. It is especially disagreeable in that at the time, ordinary students are facing a housing shortage of five thousand students, a twenty percent increase in rent, and a waiting list. When completed Vantage College will offer these international students a thousand room housing tower having amenities not made available to common students.
Creating such a college catering to the wealthy and not permitting ordinary citizens to enroll based upon their citizenship raises some doubts to what the true mission of a public university should be. The preferences universities give to foreign students who typically bring in high tuition fees has been controversial for decades but Vantage College rises to an even higher level of preference state universities are giving to foreign students who are more economically valuable.
The college offers services individually tailored to these students and includes perks such as “round the clock support”, “custom curriculum”, and “lower class sizes.” in a new campus constructed for the exclusive use of these students.
The Canadian Federation of Students in an interview with CBC News states that the practice of trying to make up for revenue shortfalls by creating an elite college for wealthy students is backwards thinking.
Spokesman Zachary Crispin said: “Vantage College is one instance of where the funding priorities are wrong and what we need to be doing is looking at where we’re failing current and existing students and Canadians who are in the system right now.”
Students also worried of creating an elite class of students, not fully integrated with other students.
“It really is a big worry that they’re not going to be fully integrated and they’re going to be separate and continue to be friends with each other, but maybe not the wider community,” said Alma Mater Society vice-president Anne Kessler.
“I think there’s kind of a sense that, what are these students doing here? Are they really going to be integrated into campus? Are they getting better services?”
UBC claims the university is building Vantage College to better support students having English as a second language but admits that it is seeking a greater source of revenue.
UBC Associate Vice President of Enrollment Angela Redish claims Vantage College will help alleviate financial pressures experienced by the university. “UBC is facing financial pressures as are public institutions across the continent, maybe across the globe, and this is one of the ways are trying to deal with that,” she said.
But, many students are upset with the decision to devote considerable money into what is expected to be a highly profitable venture while at the same time common students are neglected.
UBC student Aspen Dirk was less circumspect in voicing her view of the university’s approach: “It’s very disrespectful, and a bit of a slap to the face. UBC is becoming more and more an elitist school. The poor need not apply.”
By Darren Smith
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