According to a new report from Ontario’s auditor general, the province’s universities increasingly rely on international student fees for financial stability.
The report released last Wednesday calls the funding formula “risky.”
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“Such a high percentage, 68 percent of the international student enrollment,” says Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk.
“If the borders are closed, if there is a country where there is a problem that Canada has and they stop sending their students or let the students come, then the financial viability of some of the universities in Ontario is in question.”
Lysyk cautions that the Ministry of Colleges and Universities does not have a safety net for schools if, and when, there is a sudden decline in international students.
Loyalist College President and CEO Ann Marie Vaughan says 38 percent of Loyalist students are international and nine out of 10 of them travel from India.
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“It brings with it a measure of risk, and the pandemic is a great example of that,” Vaughan says. “As we see borders closing, or patterns change for students to get here, that obviously impacts and adds an element of risk to our planning.”
At St. Lawrence College, the pandemic meant that the percentage of international students attending school dropped from about 25% to 17%.
However, increasing the number of international students has become a long-term goal of the school, as it strives to become a diverse and world-renowned institution.
“You know, I think the AG report indicated the exponential growth that has been taking place in terms of international students,” says St. Lawrence College President and CEO Glenn Vollebregt. “Not just in Ontario, but across the country.
“So this is something that has happened in almost every college and university in the country.”
Vaughan believes that greater stability in funding the province’s universities receive would help ensure that the programs can remain available to the community.
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“I think the auditor general’s report shed light on what we know,” says Vaughan. “A general under-financing of the university system in the province. And what is happening then is that student fees are now starting to exceed government subsidies. “
The auditor general also notes in the report that Ontario provides the lowest amount of funding for full-time national students of all Canadian provinces.
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