Post-secondary education cuts could mean more reliance on international students
With provincial funding cuts to post-secondary education, some feel there will be an even greater reliance on the revenues received from international students studying here.
International students are definitely a fixture in Canada’s education landscape.
Gurleen Singh, 19, is a first-year office administration executive student from India studying at Fanshawe College and says receiving an education here allows for more opportunity.
At first he didn’t want to come to Canada, but says it was the preference of his father.
“My dad preferred because we have relatives here. They told him that it will be good for (me). And it is very good for me to know new things and to think about...different cultures and varieties.”
Singh is part of a growing contingent of international students landing in Canada.
In Ontario, some believe an even greater increase in such placements is inevitable in response to the provincial government's funding cuts to post-secondary education.
“All post-secondary institutions in Ontario have been looking to international students and as much as they add to the classroom experience, yeah they've become very reliant on that,” says Daryl Bedford, president of OPSEU Local 110.
“They are earning more revenue from international students than all of the domestic students combined,” he says.
“At Fanshawe and many other colleges, international tuition will be going up three per cent to cover off the 10 per cent tuition cut for domestic students”.
International students make up nearly 30 per cent of enrollment at Fanshawe, with average tuitions of about $14,000.
At Western University, they make up 15 per cent of undergrads, with tuitions as high as $40,000.
“Universities (are) using international students as cash cows - charging them exorbitantly high tuition rates just so that they can make their bottom line. That's not okay,” says Mary Blake Rose, president of Western’s Society of Graduate Students.
“International students should be recruited because of the value they bring to the community, not because of the revenue they bring to the institution.”
While the cultural benefits are many, some worry that an unhealthy dependence on international students puts Canada's colleges and universities in a precarious position, especially during turbulent political times.
It hit home last year when a diplomatic dispute caused Saudi Arabia to order thousands of Saudi students to leave the country.
And Canada, found itself in a diplomatic spat with China recently over the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, Huawei's chief financial officer.
While Chinese students in Canada were not affected, the incident put nerves on edge.
The dependence is not lost on officials at both Fanshawe and Western.
“There is an economic reliance on international students just as there is an economic reliance on our domestic students. So if our domestic students were to leave all of a sudden because of a reputational issue or something else then we would be in serious trouble,” says Julie McMullin, vice provost of Western International.
“Similarly if our international students were to leave we'd be in some trouble as well.”
Wendy Curtis, Fanshawe International executive director, says international students can help add numbers in order to offer certain programs.
“The extra revenue allows us to do things for all of our students that we wouldn't otherwise be able to do. So, as an example, we might be able to open an additional program because we know that employers are interested and we may not have the interest from the number of domestic students,” she says.
“We can open that program, meet employer demands, based on funding that's been generated."
Meanwhile, Singh says his dream is to put his Canadian business education to work by opening a restaurant, either back home or here in Canada.“I haven't decided it yet, but I'm thinking of opening a business here.”