Canada’s 2024 International Student Cap: Implications, Impacts, and Expectations

By: Constanza Leautaud Grajales

Edited by: Madeleine Hamilton

Amidst the current cost-of-living crisis in Canada, Immigration Minister Marc Miller announced on the 22nd of January this year that there will be a newly implemented reduction in new study visas by 35% for the next two years. While trying to address the new policy, he opened a conference which discussed the cap, saying “International students are vital to Canada and enrich our communities. As such, we have an obligation to ensure that they have access to the resources they need for an enriching academic experience. In Canada, today, this isn’t always the case.” Based on this, the cap on international study permits is not only a response to institutions charging international students triple the amount of tuition than domestic students, but also an attempt to address the current national housing shortage. 

Until now, there has been no limit on how many students can enter the country. Previously, the government granted student visas on the sole condition of proof of acceptance into a Canadian institution. This largely unchecked influx of international students has clearly contributed to population growth beyond the capacity of available housing resources. In 2023, the Canadian government expected the number of student visas to reach 900,000. These rising numbers on international student admissions have put heavy pressure on the housing system. It is a simple problem: Canada is accepting more students than it can house. Economists posit that the large student influx has been a big reason as to why the houses are becoming more and more expensive and unaffordable. Stabilizing the amount of people that enter the country is an attempt to take a bit of pressure off the housing market demands. 

The average tuition for international students has become so high, that it is common knowledge between foreign students. Statistics Canada reported that for the 2022-2023 academic year international students paid “an average of $36,123, which is 429% more than tuition fees for domestic students,” which could be considered outrageously high and unaffordable for some if not most people who wish to acquire a Canadian degree. This gives off the impression that many Canadian post-secondary institutions are “relying on international student admissions to supplement their funding because their tuitions are so much higher.”It seems that these institutions view international students as nothing more than “cash-cows.” This is uncomfortable to confront, however, the statistics exhibit this point.

What are the changes the cap brings into place? The Canadian government will only grant 360,000 undergraduate study permits in 2024 rather than the unlimited amount it distributed previously. Not only that, but there will be “a set number of study permits will be allocated to each province according to its size” and applicants who do not have a provincial or territorial allocation letter will not be given a permit, which will cause the province of Ontario to face a reduction of minimum 50%.

With these implications in mind, there are two perspectives which are positively against these new changes: post-secondary institutions as well as present and future international students. Some current students “were sympathizing with friends back home whose dreams of studying in Canada were suddenly in jeopardy as Ottawa has moved to cap the number of study permits for international undergraduate students over the next two years.” All this shows is that many possible future foreign students are being dissuaded into applying to study at Canadian institutions due to the new changes and selectivity that will come from the visa reduction. Similar to this sentiment, several organizations, who represent 234 post-secondary institutions, have expressed significant concern about the government’s newly instituted cap meant to reduce the number of student permits for the next two years. The issue about capping the amount of foreign students, especially in Ontario which is the province who hosts most of them, is that most schools rely on the fees these international students pay since they are much higher than those for domestic students, thus much of these institution’s funding and budgeting will be cut short. These feelings regarding the cap however, are not sufficiently shared by those who do think that the cap was a “sensible move” as many of them do not understand or realize how much money is needed to not only study in Canada, but to find proper living accommodations. 

All in all, it can be concluded that there is a wild mix of feelings about the cap. With some who think it is a good tactic from the federal government to reduce the pressure on the housing system, institutions thinking it was a reckless move considering their funding will not be same as it was without the international student’s tuition, or even present students who feel sad and sympathetic for those who will not be able to pursue a Canadian degree in the future, even if they have the means to do so. Thus, this cap will not only impact future possible international students, but also Canadian post-graduate institutions, and therefore possibly Canadian students themselves. Further, one considers whether this cap foreshadows a more dramatic reduction should the current trend continue–indeed, the future for international study in Canada appears to be in jeopardy.

References

Baig, F. (2024, January 28). International students have mixed feelings about visa cap, say system needs review. CBC. Retrieved February 11, 2024, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-international-students-sheridan-visa-cap-1.7097349

The Economic Times. (2024, January 22). Canada announces two-year plan to cap international students. Here’s how it will work. The Economic Times. Retrieved February 11, 2024, from https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/nri/study/canada-announces-cap-on-international-students-heres-how-it-will-work/articleshow/107061302.cms?from=mdr

Georgian, F., Black, C., Kay, B., & Murphy, R. (2024, January 24). What is Canada’s international student program and why is it being capped? National Post. Retrieved February 11, 2024, from https://nationalpost.com/news/politics/canada-international-student-program

Gillies, R. (2024, January 23). ‘It’s time to rein it in’: Canada cuts foreign college students amid record immigration rates, citing housing, cost-of-living crisis. Fortune. Retrieved February 11, 2024, from https://fortune.com/2024/01/23/canada-new-plan-fix-cost-living-crisis-cutting-foreign-student-visas-35-ease-housing-pressure/

Lopez, B. (2024, January 30). Two post-secondary organizations express ‘significant concern’ over international student cap. CBC. Retrieved February 11, 2024, from https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/two-post-secondary-organizations-express-significant-concern-over-international-student-cap-1.7099862

Stone, L. (2024, January 30). Groups representing Canadian universities, colleges raise ‘significant concerns’ about international student cap. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved February 11, 2024, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-international-students-cap-universities-colleges-canada/

Stone, L. (2024, January 30). Groups representing Canadian universities, colleges raise ‘significant concerns’ about international student cap. The Globe and Mail. Retrieved February 11, 2024, from https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-international-students-cap-universities-colleges-canada/

Image Citation:

https://www.pexels.com/photo/people-wearing-backpacks-1454360/ by Stanley Morales