The Canadian government is taking new measures to address the concerns regarding the increasing number of foreign students in the country’s education sector, which is putting pressure on the housing and labor market. According to Bloomberg, Immigration Minister Marc Miller has announced a framework that will compel universities and colleges to set higher standards for services, support, and outcomes for international students, starting in the fall of 2024. Institutions that meet the new benchmark will receive priority for the processing of student visas, and adequate housing will be one of the criteria.
To tackle fraud, the Canadian government will require institutions to confirm every applicant’s acceptance letter directly with the government, starting from December 1, 2021. The government aims to identify and prevent fraud, following revelations that hundreds of Indian newcomers arrived in Canada with fake college admissions letters. Additionally, the post-graduate work permit program will be reviewed in the coming months, and reforms will be introduced to meet the needs of the labor market.
The plan comes amid growing concern that Canadian educational institutions rely too much on international students as a source of funding. Foreign students are charged an average of five times as much as Canadian students, and colleges catering to foreigners have popped up in strip malls and temporary buildings, most notably in the Toronto suburb of Brampton, Ontario, where Miller made the announcement.
The federal government recognizes that post-secondary institutions have increasingly relied on tuition fees as provincial funding as a share of revenue has declined, making institutions adapt to that. In 2019 to 2020, foreigners paid 37% of tuition at Canada’s universities, while in 2021 those students paid an estimated 68% of tuition at Ontario’s colleges. The government aims to ensure that institutions charge fair tuition fees to international students.
The influx of foreign students has led to housing shortages and flooded labor markets in some regions where there aren’t enough jobs. The Canadian government is also concerned about private colleges and immigration consultants accused of exploiting international students for profit.
The government investigation revealed that nearly 1,550 study permit applications were connected to fraudulent acceptance letters. In most cases, the fraud was detected and the application was refused, but in about 450 cases, a permit was issued. The Canadian government is committed to working with provinces and territories to ensure that international students’ experiences are positive and to make sure that the institutions charge fair tuition fees.
According to Miller’s office, international education contributes more than C$22 billion ($16 billion) to the Canadian economy annually and supports over 200,000 jobs. The Canadian government recognizes the value that international students bring but is taking steps to ensure that the influx of foreign students does not put pressure on the housing and labor market.