Program Fee

Understanding the SBME Program Fee

When students in SBME’s undergraduate program enter their second, third and fourth years, a program fee is added to the cost of tuition. This page details why this fee exists, and what the funds are put toward in the program.

Why a program fee?

Our goal is to provide a unique, high-impact Biomedical Engineering program that prepares students for the emerging opportunities in our field.

The complexities of in-person, hands-on learning in the BME undergrad program are extensive: we have laboratories that cover cell culture, biophysics, biomechanics, bioinstrumentation, anatomy and physiology, informatics, microscopy, microfluidics and more. This broad range of state-of-the-art research is unique at UBC. In other engineering programs, only a subset of these concentrations and corresponding facilities are available.

These labs are costly to establish, run, improve, and expand. These development states are active across all lab in our program and they are why the BME program originally worked with the UBC Senate to establish the Program Fee.

Receiving a BASc in Biomedical Engineering from UBC signals that students have graduated with specific, unique and in-demand biomedical engineering skills. We are committed to making sure students gain these skills regardless of the constraints and limitations of the pandemic. The program fee is helping us accomplish this.

What the program fee covers at a glance

Some of the general expenses covered by the program fee include state-of-the-art lab equipment, maintenance, cell culture supplies, consumables, reagents, instruments, computers, personal protective equipment and more.

As the number of lab and capstone offerings continue to expand, the fee helps support the hiring of the necessary support staff.

It’s important to note that the though program fee is put toward these overall expenses, it doesn’t cover them entirely; and it likely never will. SBME makes up for the difference in fee total and actual cost with school funds. It is only a supplemental fee, and every dollar of it is allocated to enhancing the student learning experience. 

Answering your questions

Why has the fee increased from last year to this year ($780.25 to $795.75) when in-person lab work is restricted or shut down? Are students entitled to some kind of refund or price reduction due to the switch to online learning? Where is the money going if not towards in-person labs?

This year-to-year fee rise in fees is due to UBC’s automatic annual increase that are meant to reflect and compensate for inflation and cost of living.

Due to current circumstances, the program fee has been put toward moving in-person learning over to the online landscape. Lab and education cost have not decreased due to the pandemic, they’ve simply transformed. Transitioning labs to a virtual format comes with expenses that include increases in staffing requirements (more TAs, licenses for specialized software, preparation and shipping “lab in a box” options, etc.). At the same time we are putting portions of the funds toward establishing the advanced 3rd and 4th year laboratory facilities, and curriculums that must now be delivered online. We are also working with hybrid models as well as preparing for a return to in-person teaching in the near future. This way, we do not have to compromise the high quality BME education that we aim to deliver to our students.  

How is the fee allocated in the second year of the BMEG Program? Students take BMEG 245 and BMEG 250, with BMEG accounting for four labs and BMEG 250 accounting for none. Did the fees go strictly to BMEG 245 or are there costs in BMEG 250 that this money is put toward?

The program fee should not be regarded strictly as a “Lab Fee.” There are extensive lab and experiential learning activities in all levels of our program covered by the Program Fee. These costs extend beyond laboratory cost (as noted in the partial list above). The program fee is used to optimize these courses and experiences across all program years.

Why do BME students pay program fees when other engineering programs at UBC have no extra program fees?

The SBME’s expansive range of labs, scientific concentrations and activities across multiple sites is unlike that of any other program, and maintaining its quality of education and experience is our guiding principle. Though funding models differ from unit to unit at UBC depending on needs, subject, and facilities. The BME Program Fee is integral to our program because our needs, subject and facilities span multiple disciplines, buildings and teaching modalities.

Unlike other fees, this one comes as a surprise to a lot of students and does not provide a breakdown of what it covers. How can students know where there money is going and if it’s being put to good use?

In no way do we want the program fee to be a surprise to any of our students. We are working with UBC Central, Faculty of Applied Science and Faculty of Medicine recruiting units to make sure this fee and all that it supports is described to prospective students early and clearly.

Why are students who take an extra year to finish their degree charged a $188 program fee on top of what they previously paid in their 2nd, 3rd and 4th years? Co-op students are also charged this fee even when they’re on a yearlong placement and away from campus. Combined with inflation increases, these put further financial strain on students, especially during COVID19. Is anything being done to address this?

Yes! We’ve taken the following actions regarding fees.

      1. Effective 2020W, we have abolished the $188 fee.
      2. Effective 2021W, we will not charge a program fee during a year in which a student is on co-op. For students who are being charged a co-op fee for 2020W, they will not have to pay a fee for 2021W.
      3. We will not increase the program fee in September 2021.