Colleges Ontario says student visa cap will create ‘havoc’ for students, institutions

Richard Southern reports on the concerns that are being raised about the survivability of education institutions being squeezed by the bookends of the lack of provincial funding and the recent federally announced cap on international study permits.

There are fresh warnings about what the federal government’s cap on international student visas could do to Ontario colleges and universities.

Colleges Ontario is calling on the federal government to rethink its approach, calling it “rushed” and contributing to an “unnecessary upheaval for students, employers and communities.”

“We believe this blunt approach does not adequately consider the talent needs of the province of Ontario – and does not consider the many thousands of students who will now be left in limbo with their hopes on hold,” read a statement released Thursday.

Immigration Minister Marc Miller announced new limits to the international student program Monday, including a 35-per-cent reduction in the number of study permits it issues this year.

The cap comes in response to a recent surge in international students and concerns that some institutions are relying on international enrolments to boost revenues, without offering necessary housing or a quality education.

Foreign student enrollment in Canadian colleges and universities has tripled in the past five years and in Ontario, foreign students account for one-sixth of enrollment.

Colleges Ontario says the measures introduced will have “potentially long-lasting negative repercussions” for many of the 24 public colleges, possibly forcing some to close their doors.

Colleges Ontario is calling for a “modest” $135 increase in per-student annual tuition and a 10 per cent increase in provincial grants to help stabilize the system and keep campuses open for domestic students while they deal with the repercussions of the federal announcement.

The Council of Ontario Universities said earlier this week at least 10 Ontario universities were already forecasting a combined operating deficit of $175 million this year, growing to $273 million next year.

Ontario Liberal Leader Bonnie Crombie is calling on the Ford government to come up with more provincial funding.

“The Ford government is deliberately been underfunding our post-secondary institutions and making them dependent on foreign students and the revenue from those international students,” she said.

A spokesperson for the minister in charge of Ontario colleges and universities said the provincial government is developing a plan and is reviewing “all options.”

The Ford government introduced a 10-per-cent tuition cut in 2019 as it canceled the former Liberal government’s free tuition program for low- and middle-income students. Fees have remained frozen at that level since then.

A government-commissioned report released in November said Ontario should end its post-secondary tuition freeze and increase per-student funding to its universities and colleges. The province’s funding to colleges per student is $6,891, 44 per cent of the figure for the rest of Canada, at $15,615, the panel wrote.

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report

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