Now With 20% More!

The latest news from the front: not only did the University of British Columbia increase the tuition for the MBA Program a whopping 321% (from $7,000 to $28,000), they overcharged students in the process. It turns out that 20% of the increase was set aside for bursaries for students in the MBA program, with bursaries only recently being awarded to students with “financial need” – seven months into the program. In a class of 87 students, 44 students received an average bursary of approximately $6,580.

That means that $4200 of my tuition increase is going to pay for the tuition of someone else in the program.

The purpose of this bursary program, presumably, is to provide a transfer of money to address an area of social inequity: some people can’t afford the program. Assuming that is correct, when would be the most logical time to award the bursary? Would it be in the middle of the program, when attendees have already addressed the issue of financing their degree? Or would it be at the beginning of the program? Of course, awarding bursaries at the beginning would make the most sense. Anyone with genuine, unresolved “financial need” probably never made it to the first class in September, never mind lasted seven months.

Given that the reason that the tuition was raised to $28,000 because the MBA Program was moving to a “cost recovery” model, how did the university consider it defensible to artificially inflate the tuition by 20% that would neither address an actual cost nor provide a discernible benefit to students?

Those of us in the class have often heard that this year’s tuition increase will probably not benefit our MBA class – I don’t necessarily have a problem with that. There are valid reasons for raising extra funds from students to transfer to other students. Universities need to raise some of its scholarship and grant money from somewhere other than rich benefactors, endowment trusts, or the government. And, to be certain, this does impart indirect benefits on our class, such as when the university is able to enhance its reputation by using scholarship money to attract superior students who go on to great success. However, from what I can see, there was no such intent in this case – this was just a transfer from some students to others for reasons that aren’t entirely clear in either our minds or, apparently, that of the MBA Program Office.

Unluckiest of all: the international students. While their tuition increase was “only” $8,000, 20% of their tuition increase was also allocated to this bursary fund. The only problem is that none of the international students are eligible to apply for the bursary. After struggling with the issue of cultural diversity and successfully bridging this divide, the MBA Program Office has lobbed in this grenade, just to to keep things interesting.

What shocks me most about all of this is that a university faculty that claims to be teaching the essentials of business, including critical thinking, financial planning, and organizational behaviour, was unable to foresee these concerns or plan appropriately. Seems like a very bad case of “do as I say, not as I do.”