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Ontario universities sees dramatic increase in international enrollment, tuition over past decade

Toronto Star investigation suggests boom in international enrollment acts as replacement for government funding
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BELINDA HOANG/THE VARSITY
BELINDA HOANG/THE VARSITY

U of T is one of the many colleges and universities in Ontario that, according to a recent survey by the Toronto Star and the St. Catharine’s Standard, are experiencing a boom in international student enrollment. Accompanied by increasing international student tuition costs, this suggests that these universities may see international tuition fees as a viable replacement for government funding.

While the university is currently encountering financial pressures from decreased provincial funding, these growths corroborate earlier estimations made by The Varsity that the university would use international tuition to replace funding lost as a result of the Ford government’s new policies.

The investigation found that international student enrollment in Canada has increased by 73 per cent since 2014, partially due to new laws that make it easier for non-Canadian students to work and attain permanent resident status. U of T alone has seen an increase in international student enrollment from 10 per cent of the total student body in 2008–2009 to 24 per cent in 2019–2020.

For many schools, international students are a lucrative alternative to provincial grants — the demographic brought in $21.6 billion to the Canadian economy in the last year alone, reported the Star.

For the 2018–2019 year, the average tuition for a domestic student at U of T was between $6,780 and $15,760, while international student tuition ranged from $34,180–54,840. In an email to The Varsity, a U of T spokesperson commented that “tuition is similar to that of other globally leading universities.

While domestic fees are government regulated, international tuition fees are unregulated and decided by the university. For the 2019–2020 academic year, 87 per cent of U of T’s operating revenues will come from tuition, other student fees, and provincial operating grants — with the proportion from provincial grants declining.

Enrollment-related revenue is expected to increase by 2.9 per cent in the 2019–2020 school year, despite there being no increase in provincial operating grants, and the 10 per cent reduction of domestic tuition fees mandated by the Ford government, both of will have been offset by a 5.4 per cent average yearly increase in international tuition fees.

In response to the higher tuition fees for international students, the U of T spokesperson wrote, “universities don’t receive provincial funding for international students as we do for Canadian students. Canadian students and their families pay taxes that flow back to universities and colleges, so we ask international students to pay their share.”

The three-part investigation from the Star and the Standard offered a few suggestions to prevent universities from taking advantage of international students. Among them being increased provincial operating grants and government support for incoming international students — or that schools could offer training to staff, better language support, and more robust support services.

U of T plans to continue to invest in academic and co-curricular programming, counselling, and support services for international students, according to the U of T spokesperson, who also mentioned other services that the university provides to international students, “such [as] language assistance, additional orientation and advisors to help them learn everything from navigating the TTC to understanding U of T’s academic culture and expectations.”

“International students benefit from studying at the University of Toronto and we benefit from their presence,” wrote the spokesperson. “International students enrich our community with their experiences, fostering a vibrant exchange of perspectives and opinions and helping us build relationships around the world.”