Colleges expect financial hit as feds cap international student admissions

Jan 25, 2024 | Campus News, Headlines, News

The federal government announced a cap on international students which has caused financial concerns for post-secondary institutions.

Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Marc Miller, announced an intake cap on international student permit applications for two years, on Jan. 22, 2024.

He said international student intake is expected to decrease by 35 per cent in Canada, which would amount to 50 per cent in Ontario.

The cost-of-living financial requirement for study permit applicants was raised by the federal government to $20,635 from $10,000 for an international student starting Jan. 1, 2024.

The government said the integrity of the international student system was threatened.

“Some institutions have significantly increased their intakes to drive revenues, and more students have been arriving in Canada without the proper support they need to succeed,” the government said. Indeed, Ottawa said the rising numbers of international students put pressure on housing, health care and other services.

According to a Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario (CFS) report, Ontario has the lowest per-student public funding for post-secondary education and the highest enrolment rate for international students.

As a result, many institutions depend on international student tuition to run their operations and because international student tuition is unregulated, institutions increase it to generate revenue, the report said.

According to the CFS report, relying heavily on international students can create ethical problems and cause business disruptions. The decline in international student numbers during the COVID-19 Pandemic led institutions like Laurentian University into bankruptcy.

Sylvie Lendvay, Humber’s media relations and external communications specialist, said there are more than 10,000 international students at Humber with approved study permits who will not be impacted by this announcement. The college has about 38,000 full-time students.

“Humber College is assessing the impact of the federal government’s announcement about international study permits. Current international students and study permit renewals will also not be impacted,” Lendvay said.

“As the international study permit changes are new, we will work with the Ontario post-secondary sector and with the province to determine next steps,” she said.

Public-private college partnerships will no longer provide post-graduate work permits for international students, which Lendvay said is not a concern for Humber.

“Humber does not have a public-private partnership, and international students approved to study at Humber will still be eligible to apply for post-graduate work permits after they have completed their studies,” she said.

“We are focused on our current international students and those approved to begin their studies with us in May and September. Those students are not impacted by this announcement and are eligible for post-graduate work permits after they have completed their studies,” Lendvay said.

Colleges Ontario, the body representing all Ontario colleges, released a statement about the government’s decision expressing concerns about the cap.

It said the decision to cap international students was rushed and the federal government failed to consult public colleges about the significant changes, causing chaos for students and institutions.

“Students who had already been accepted into programs – and had paid their fees for those programs are now having their applications for study permits returned to them,” Colleges Ontario said.

Colleges Ontario urged the federal government to have a meaningful discussion with Ontario colleges and the provincial government about the potential impacts on students and Canada’s reputation.