Visa cap announced without consultation
Ontario’s colleges are facing a major challenge as the federal government announced a cap on the number of study permits for international students this year. The cap, which was imposed without consultation with the colleges, is already creating “havoc” for the institutions that rely on international students for revenue and diversity.
The cap comes in response to a recent surge in international students and Immigration Minister Marc Miller has said it is meant to curb bad actors from taking advantage of high tuition fees while providing a poor education. However, the colleges argue that they offer quality programs that meet the needs of the labour market and the students themselves.
The cap will reduce the number of study permits by 35 per cent this year, though with the total cap divided between provinces, Ontario will see its allotment of new visas cut in half. This means that many prospective students who have already applied and paid fees for programs starting in May will be left in limbo.
Colleges have year-round intake of students
One of the main issues with the cap is that it does not take into account the fact that Ontario’s colleges have a year-round intake of students. Unlike universities, which typically have two or three semesters per year, colleges offer programs that start every month or every few months, depending on the demand and the availability of seats.
This means that many colleges are well into the application process and ready to start programs in May, but they have no idea how many students will be able to get their visas in time. Moreover, the federal government has imposed an immediate requirement for a letter of attestation from the provincial government for each student, but Ontario does not currently have such a process.
Colleges Ontario, the association representing the province’s 24 publicly assisted colleges, says this requirement is halting all student visa processing right now and causing confusion and frustration for both the colleges and the students. The association is calling on the federal government to delay the implementation of the cap and the letter of attestation until a proper consultation can take place.
Colleges depend on international students
The cap on international student visas is not only a problem for the students who want to study in Ontario, but also for the colleges that depend on themInternational students make up about 25 per cent of the total enrolment in Ontario’s colleges, and they contribute significantly to the financial viability and the academic quality of the institutions.
International students pay higher tuition fees than domestic students, which helps the colleges cover their operational costs and invest in new programs and facilities. International students also bring diversity and global perspectives to the classrooms and the campuses, enriching the learning experience for everyone.
The cap on visas will have a negative impact on the colleges’ budgets and their ability to offer a wide range of programs and services to all students. It will also affect the local economies and communities that benefit from the spending and the skills of international students.
Colleges seek dialogue and collaboration
The colleges say they understand the need to regulate the international education sector and to protect the interests and the rights of the students. They say they are willing to work with the federal and the provincial governments to ensure that the quality and the integrity of the system are maintained.
However, they also say that the cap on visas is a blunt and arbitrary measure that does not reflect the reality and the diversity of the sector. They say that the cap should be based on the actual capacity and the performance of each institution, rather than on a one-size-fits-all approach.
The colleges are asking the federal government to reconsider the cap and to engage in a dialogue and a collaboration with the colleges and the provincial government. They say that this is the only way to find a fair and effective solution that will serve the best interests of the students, the colleges, and the country.