Foreign students start gradual return — along with their much-missed tuition

Will continue to watch application and admission statistics to assess the return:

Canada will begin allowing international students into the country on Tuesday, but it may take weeks before they arrive in significant numbers.

Travel restrictions are being lifted on Oct. 20, allowing foreign students to enter Canada if their post-secondary institutions’ COVID-19-readiness plans are approved by a provincial or territorial government. Universities, colleges and language schools are required to have a plan to quarantine students for 14 days.

Since March, international travel restrictions have limited entry into Canada for most non-essential travellers.

The return of foreign students is a relief for Canada’s post-secondary schools, with universities potentially losing as much as $3.4 billion this year, due mainly to the drop in international students, Statistics Canada reported earlier this month.

Tuition fees paid by foreign students have become an ever-bigger source of revenue for universities. The average tuition paid by an international student this year is $32,041, almost five times what a Canadian student pays. And the number of foreign students in Canada has tripled in 12 years to more than 640,000, generating roughly $22 billion a year in economic activity in Canada, according to federal estimates.

“This could be in the billions of dollars of loss this year alone,” said Denise Amyot, president and CEO of Colleges and Institutes Canada, which represents 135 post-secondary institutions.

Amyot said the return of international students will benefit rural colleges, in particular, where there are seldom enough domestic students to fill classes. Foreign students are also important because many decide to settle in Canada and are often trained for occupations that are short of workers, she said.

“Those are potential immigrants for our country,” Amyot said. “If they know the language, they have studied here, and they have Canadian experience, they make really well-prepared Canadians.”

With the fall semester well underway, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) spokesperson Shannon Ker told iPolitics that amendments to travel restrictions that kick in Tuesday “should result in a gradual movement of international students to Canada.”

Many foreign students are arranging to arrive before the winter semester starts in January, said Bryn de Chastelain, chair of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations.

“I’m not sure if we’ll see a huge influx starting tomorrow, but I think, over the next few months, we will start to see kind of a slow trickle begin to pick up,” de Chastelain said.

Ker said it’s too hard to guess how many students will arrive in the weeks ahead, but it would depend on how many decide to study online from their home countries and the number of institutions that have their readiness plans approved. But a spokesperson for Ontario’s Ministry of Colleges and Universities says it has given 12 publicly funded schools the green light so far.

IRCC has yet to publish the list of schools — known formally as “designated learning institutions” — whose plans have been approved, although its website says it will be available by Oct. 20.

Students arriving in Canada must undergo the same screening and quarantine as any other traveller.

But the students’ arrival may be delayed because Canadian visa-application offices abroad are short-staffed due to the pandemic, Amyot said. That includes those in India, where most foreign students attending Canadians colleges and institutes come from.

International students require two stages of permits in order to study in Canada. Stage 2 includes biometrics, a medical exam, and a criminal background check that often require physically going to a visa office.

“That will become a barrier, because they need those biometrics to travel to Canada,” Amyot said.

The IRCC’s Ker said that, since March 15, more than 121,000 study permits have been issued, of which 10,000 are initial study permits and 111,000 are study permit extensions. In most cases, applicants approved for an initial study permit are abroad, whereas applicants approved for a study permit extension are already in Canada.

According to de Chastelain, foreign students have received “next-to-no financial support” from Ottawa during the pandemic. He said the federal government should help students struggling financially, and cover some expenses for digital technology as most classes move online. One idea de Chastelain proposes is reallocating unspent funds from the $9-billion student-aid package announced in April.

Despite the pandemic, most international and out-of-province students still prefer to live near the schools they’re attending, he said.

Source: Foreign students start gradual return — along with their much-missed tuition

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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