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B.C. says no tuition hikes for domestic students to offset international student cap

Click to play video: 'B.C. waits for effects of federal cuts to international student permits'
B.C. waits for effects of federal cuts to international student permits
WATCH: The B.C. government and the province's post-secondary education industry are waiting to see the effect of new federal government caps on international student permits. Richard Zussman reports on the reasons for the cut. – Jan 22, 2024

The B.C. minister responsible for post-secondary institution says those studying at public universities won’t see fee hikes as a result of a new federal cap on international students.

On Monday, federal Immigration Minister Marc Miller announced a 35-per cent cut in the intake of international students nationally, over the next two years.

The cap will not apply to graduate-level students, and will not be uniformly applied to each province — with bigger cuts applied to provinces that have seen “the most unsustainable growth” in international student intake, Miller said.

Click to play video: 'Impact of international student cap in Ontario'
Impact of international student cap in Ontario

B.C. universities rely heavily on international student fees for funding. For example, at the University of British Columbia a B.C.-resident commerce student will pay just over $8,000 in tuition per year, while an international student pays $61,000.

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Overall, domestic student tuition brings in about $400 million per year at UBC, while fees from the far fewer international students collect about $657 million.

Despite this, B.C. Post-Secondary Education Minister Selina Robinson maintained that domestic students won’t be picking up the tab on any cuts to international enrolment.

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“We already have a cap, so that already exists. We’re committed to maintaining that,” she said regarding tuition.

Robinson said the cap is focused on targeting bad actors in the post secondary system, predominantly in the private sector.

“The issue is not the public post-secondaries in terms of the product they’re delivering, the supports they provide students,” she said.

Click to play video: 'Poilievre blames Liberal government after feds cap number of international students'
Poilievre blames Liberal government after feds cap number of international students

Philip Steenkamp, president and vice-chancellor at Royal Roads University, said much remains unclear about how the new caps will play out.

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But he said provinces will be given specific allocations for new enrolments, which they will then have the power to distribute to individual institutions.

“The concerns are mostly focused on some of the private institutions where the federal government has been concerned the international students are not getting a quality experience,” he said.

However, he said institutions and the government will need to be proactive in communicating the finer details of the program, or risk scaring off prospective students that could benefit the province.

“It could send a message that we’re not open for business, so we’ve go ta lot of work to do on the communications front in getting the message out that notwithstanding this, there’s still a significant allocation of international students, we are open to international students, we welcome international students and if they come here they will get a quality experience,” he said.

Dale McCartney, an assistant professor in the department of arts and integrated studies at the University of the Fraser Valley, said the post-secondary sector has been “absolutely changed” in recent decades by the reliance on dollars from international students.

Click to play video: 'Canada will reduce international student intake by 35% in 2024: Miller'
Canada will reduce international student intake by 35% in 2024: Miller

That’s created jobs and opportunities, he said, but also sometimes come at a cost for students recruited by less scrupulous schools or those with lower standards.

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“International students are coming to Canada with an expectation of the kind of opportunities and education they are going to receive and not all of them are getting it,” he said.

“And I would say that’s true even in public institutions who are not necessarily living up to the best version of themselves as it relates to international students, but I would say especially in this private sector.”

Robinson said she’s heard numerous stories of students who haven’t received the supports or the education they were promised in the private sector, and said the province would be announcing measures targeting those schools next week.

She said the province was looking at elevating minimum post-secondary standards, new accountability measures for recruiters and a potential shift from the current complaints-based system of enforcement, which students may be wary of engaging with out of the fear they’ll be sent home.

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