International students in Canada say system needs overhaul

On a bustling university campus west of Toronto, several students had been thinking about recently announced changes to the international student program which led them to the post-secondary institution.

Some sympathized with friends back home whose dreams of studying in Canada were suddenly in jeopardy when Ottawa moved to limit the number of study permits for international university students for the next two years. Others called it a sensible move as Canada aims to rein in its growing international student program.

However, there was a general consensus that the program needs to be reviewed.

For Gayathri Jayachandrakurup Sreeja, who arrived in Ontario from India last month to start a marketing program, the changes made her think about those she knew with similar aspirations for a Canadian education.

“They’re pretty sad about this,” he said while between classes on the campus of Sheridan College in Mississauga, Ont.

“There are a lot of students who are willing to come here and study, establish their future, so I think it’s pretty bad for them.”

Haritha Kaladharan, another international student from India studying business and process management, agreed that the changes disappointed many of her acquaintances back home.

But he said it was important for Canada to address the problems associated with the program.

“People in the other country may feel very sad because Canada has become more strict,” Kaladharan said while studying for an exam on campus. “But they don’t know the struggle we faced after coming here.”

International students face challenges securing housing and finding part-time jobs, he said, while paying much higher tuition rates than their domestic counterparts.

“If (Canada) invites more immigrants to the country, they should have some plans, such as whether we can employ them. Most people find it very difficult to get accommodation,” Kaladharan said.

“The immigrants here… let them settle, let them get jobs, after that, once they settle, they can invite more immigrants.”

Manmohidpreet Singh, a 20-year-old marketing student at Sheridan College, said the latest cap is necessary.

“They don’t understand that they need a lot of money to survive here,” he said of those abroad who plan to come to Canada for post-secondary education.

“If you want to come here, prepare yourself.”

A person walks past Sheridan College’s Hazel McCallion campus in Mississauga, Ont., Friday, Jan. 26, 2024. Canada will temporarily stop approving student visas so the federal and provincial governments can take time to evaluate the program. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

More than 900,000 foreign students obtained visas to study in Canada last year and more than half of them had newly issued permits. That’s more than triple what it was 10 years ago.

Immigration Minister Marc Miller announced this week that new visas for international students will be cut by more than a third this year so Ottawa can stem the rapid increase in temporary residents that has put immense pressure on the housing system.

He said the two-year limit will also give governments time to address problems in the system that have allowed some bad actors to take advantage of high international student tuition while providing a poor education.

Some provinces will be more affected than others. Ontario, which has seen the largest share of growth in international students, will see its allocation of new visas cut in half.

“In recent years, the integrity of the international student system has been threatened,” Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada wrote in a statement.

“The rapid increase in the number of international students arriving in Canada is also putting pressure on housing, health care and other services.”

Ottawa has said the Peel region, where Mississauga is located, is one of the areas hardest hit by the influx of international students.

Colleges Ontario has said Ottawa’s move is already wreaking havoc, as universities welcome students year-round and many international students already accepted into programs are having their study permit applications returned.

Universities have also spoken out against the limit on international students. The Council of Ontario Universities has said at least 10 Ontario universities were already forecasting a combined operating deficit of $175 million this year, which will grow to $273 million next year.

In 2022, a report from Ontario’s auditor general said the province’s schools had become dependent on international student tuition fees, particularly after the province forced public universities and colleges to cut and then freeze tuition fees. tuition fees for Canadian students in 2019.

On Friday, the Ontario government announced that all colleges and universities in the province will be required to guarantee accommodation for incoming international students.

He also said he would review post-secondary institutions with a “considerable” number of international students and introduce a moratorium on new partnerships between public universities and private institutions.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 28, 2024.

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