The province’s auditor general says Ontario’s reliance on international students to fund its colleges poses a serious financial risk to the post-secondary system.
International students, who make up about 30 percent of the student body at Ontario’s 24 colleges, provide 68 percent of all tuition revenue. Their fees alone were $1.7 billion last year, more than colleges received in provincial grants. The majority of international students, 62 percent, came from one country: India.
The number of international students admitted to Canada’s post-secondary institutions has increased in recent years, partly as a response to stagnation in government funding. International tuition fees are typically four times higher than for Canadian students. In Ontario’s college system, foreign enrollment has increased by 342 percent from 2012–2013, while domestic enrollment has declined by 15 percent. Many international students are attracted by the opportunity to apply for permanent residency in Canada after graduation.
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In his 2021 report, Auditor General Bonnie Lisick said reliance on funding from international students creates risks beyond the control of the government. There could be a large and sudden drop in enrollment and revenue if students from one country were unable to enter Canada, such as not being able to obtain a visa, she wrote, and the Ministry of Colleges and Universities has approached that possibility. There is no plan to deal with it. ,
“We found that the ministry has not developed a strategic plan for the region to help reduce the risk of a sudden drop in international students and the impact on the college sector, students and government,” the report said. “
In its response included in the report, the government said it is aware of these issues and that Ontarians should be proud that local colleges attract students from around the world.
“Many of those students want not only a Canadian post-secondary education, but also the opportunity to start a new life and career in Canada,” Sarkar said. “We agree with the Auditor General that diversifying international enrollment is an important strategy for colleges and efforts are already underway across the system.”
To take a recent example of the international enrollment risk, Saudi Arabia called thousands of postsecondary students home in 2018 over a diplomatic dispute with the Canadian government. Although relatively few Saudi students were attending Ontario colleges, many were in the province’s universities. His departure has been cited as a contributing factor to the bankruptcy of Laurentian University.
Many are concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic could trigger a drop in enrollment. In Australia, which also has a high proportion of foreign students, losses due to the relative shortage of international students related to COVID-19 have been estimated in the billions. In Canada, the crisis proved mostly manageable, as governments allowed students from abroad to enroll and study remotely. But the Auditor General said there is a need to diversify the source countries from which the students come.
College Ontario President Linda Franklin said colleges have spoken to the government about the level of dependence on international students.
“As the Auditor General pointed out, we are the least funded system in the country,” Ms Franklin said.
He said that in recent years, the Ford government cut domestic tuition fees by 10 percent and then froze them for two years, limiting the colleges’ ability to raise funds.
“We have had preliminary talks with the government” [addressing] The stability of the college system in Ontario,” said Ms. Franklin.
The Auditor General also noted that colleges are partnering with recruiting agencies in India, who are paid commission for the numbers they enter, but colleges do not have a formal policy to select or remove those agencies. . Of the 100 recruiters whose websites were examined, seven were found to make misleading claims such as “visa assurance” or positive English-language test scores.
In its detailed analysis of the four colleges, the report found that domestic students were not displaced by international students, and generally had access to the colleges to which they applied. But it recommended that the government track the programs with the highest demand to ensure the priority of Ontario applicants.
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