As remote learning becomes the new normal, many international students in Canada are calling for reduced tuition rates.
The cost of studying in Canada
Statistics Canada estimates the average yearly tuition rate for international students in Canada is $29,714. Combine that with living expenses, which vary based on the location of your studies, studying in Canada is far from inexpensive.
But with a global pandemic wreaking havoc in economies both within Canada and outside our borders, many students are struggling to pay their tuition. Some international students are even finding that their tuition rates have gone up as universities struggle to recoup their budgetary shortfalls in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Benefits of being an international student in Canada
Despite the cost, there are notable benefits to studying in Canada. International students in Canada have better chances for permanent immigration through Express Entry or provincial nominee programs. There are also studies that show that newcomers who study in Canada have better labour market outcomes after immigration.
Apart from the immigration benefits that international students receive for their studies in Canada, there are also professional benefits to studying here. Canada has world-class educational institutions and internationally recognized degrees. Students in Canada also gain valuable experience networking with their peers and professors that can help later in their careers.
As new rules come into effect today that will allow numerous international students to return to Canada, many are coming back to online classes, less access to facilities, and a loss of networking opportunities. Yet despite this, students are still paying the same tuition costs.
The case for temporary tuition breaks for international students
Throughout the pandemic, Canada has made many concessions to make life easier for international students in Canada. The concessions made for international students are not done out of the goodness of the Canadian government’s heart. International students are big business for Canada.
International students contribute $22 billion to the Canadian economy per year and create over 170,000 jobs. Part of the justification for why international students pay more in tuition than Canadians is because they don’t pay taxes.
The Canadian government subsidizes tuition for Canadians but just because international students don’t pay taxes like a citizen or permanent resident, doesn’t mean they don’t contribute to the Canadian economy. Their tuition and living expenses alone contribute billions to government coffers.
Then you have post-graduate work permits that enable a student to work in Canada after their studies. This work is taxable. Also, many international students choose to immigrate after graduation, paying taxes on their earnings.
The problem with implementing tuition breaks for international students is that universities determine the amounts they charge. It would require government intervention, in the form of a bursary program, to provide tuition breaks to international students.
Provincial governments could implement a bursary program to make their region more attractive to international students. But if Canada as a whole wants to maintain a reputation as a top destination for international students, a federal bursary program would be an ideal system.