Taking on stories piece by piece

Sticking to a topic week after week, as a former editor said, is a virtue


While our team was editing the “City draws international students” story last week, one of us added a half-serious remark at the end on the subject of international students having to pay much higher tuition fees than domestic students and having less access to healthcare. The admittedly snide idea was that of course the city and UTM are holding a welcome party—they improve our cashflow.

Another person in the editing chain pointed out that the university isn’t totally at fault. She and an international student friend had asked Principal Saini about the discrepancy at a meet-and-greet last year, and he had replied that it wasn’t something the university wanted, but the provincial government heavily subsidizes domestic student education and actually taxes the university for each international student it admits.

Not knowing whether this was the full story, we went to Google. The first thing we learned was that the wealth of information and argumentation, mostly by student groups, on the subject is hard to slog through. The second thing was that the issue is far from black and white.

That’s why this editorial isn’t part of that argument (it’d be too short, anyway). Yes, it was interesting to read on a student union site that although the average Canadian university does indeed receive less assistance for an international student than for a domestic student, it more than recoups the difference in higher tuition fees. Yes, it does seem strange that the government does not cap the amount by which universities can increase international student tuition, as they do for domestic students, and that U of T plans to increase international tuition at twice the rate of domestic over the next four years. Yes, we were concerned about the fact that official responses tend more towards the “We made it clear this was what they were in for” (as in a Varsity article in March) than “sorry”. All of these seem like good starting points for an editorial.

But they also raise more questions. The stories being told by both sides are slanted; almost everyone involved in this conversation has a stake in it. For example, what if the point about recouping only takes the assistance into consideration and neglects to factor in the tax Saini mentioned? It’s very hard to find the answer to that on Google.

What we realized was that the topic was too big to answer easily, especially in a footnote at the end of an article. And, to be honest, that we simply don’t know enough about it yet. In that sense, we share your position as readers more than you might think: we have to start somewhere as well when we want to figure something out, and although having an archive helps, our team still turns over each year and has to catch up on a lot of knowledge.

So we decided not to address the issue in its entirety. We left a footnote in the article, and then we picked one part to investigate: the coverage that UHIP offers vs. the OHIP coverage domestic students enjoy. That’s this week’s second cover story, and I hope it clarifies one aspect of a difficult issue.

The Medium has been more investigative some years than others, and my hope is that we can continue to explore and not be daunted by depth.