I love you. I just wanted to start out that way so you know that the rest of this letter is written from a place of love.
This September, the College’s Finance Committee approved a 5% increase in fees for postgraduate and non-EU undergraduate students beginning in the 2018/2019 academic year. Graduate Students’ Union (GSU) President Shane Collins has stated his intention to resist this increase, and Students’ Union (TCDSU) President Kevin Keane has stated his support for the GSU in opposing these increases. This 5% uptick is more than previous 3% increases and will undoubtedly place an undue burden on current postgraduate and non-EU students, two already financially hard-pressed groups.
This will certainly be difficult for many postgraduate students, but non-EU students are not getting nearly enough notice in this debate.
I read three articles on the subject before I found anything Kevin said about non-EU students, which is disappointing as someone who will be directly affected. This overlooking of our needs is something that is all too familiar to many international students, and the fact that it comes even on the heels of an increase to our already high fees just adds insult to injury.
This doesn’t come from malice, merely ignorance. For instance, I was talking the other day with a friend of mine, telling her about why I can’t support Students Against Fees (SAF). In short, it is because, if your fees go down, my fees go up, and while I support the intention, I cannot support something that not only doesn’t consider its impact on me, but will likely ultimately lead to an unfortunate outcome for me and other students like me. This friend of mine, who is so passionate about education being available to everyone and so would be aware of issues like this, paused for a moment and said: “I’ve never even thought about it like that.” And therein lies the larger problem.
I don’t blame her for not thinking about this campaign from the perspective of a non-EU student. Why would she? We’re not exactly the biggest group on campus, so it’s understandable that most Irish students have no idea what our experience is like unless, like my friends, they’re friends with one, and, even then, there are things they don’t even consider. Our experiences are discussed at length amongst ourselves but are rarely considered by the larger college community.
We are seen by you as cash cows and we are barely seen by our own Students’ Union (apart from one International Officer). Unfortunately, with this fee increase and inevitable future increases, there might not be many of us left in the near future. The higher our fees get, the fewer people from outside the EU will consider Trinity as an option. On top of our tuition, we also have to pay more to get to and from Dublin, and we pay fees to the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB). We don’t qualify for many of the available scholarships because they are often dependent on the country of citizenship of the applicant.
Remember: I’m not saying any of this because I hate you. If I hated you, I wouldn’t bother saying anything at all, I would just leave. I love Trinity, I love Dublin, I love Ireland. It breaks my heart that another student may not have the opportunity to fall in love like I have for financial reasons. I want to make life easier for future students; goodness knows international students have enough to deal with when coming to a new school in a new country. I love you, Trinity. I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed. You can do better.
Sincerely fed up,