Students from abroad a source of revenue
Laurier proudly hangs the flags of the 68 nations represented in the student population in its dining hall. Despite the promotion of diversity, a recent report released by the Ontario Undergraduate Students’ Alliance (OUSA) suggests that Ontario universities may be taking advantage of its international students.
The McGuinty government announced in March 2010 the intention of increasing the number of international students in Ontario by 50 per cent. This led Meaghan Coker, president of OUSA, to ask students what they really wanted “because even as domestic students we are about the experience that international students are getting.”
This resulted in the Going Global campaign, which released a report surveying the drawbacks of being an international student in Ontario. These drawbacks included high tuition fees, backward healthcare coverage under the University Health Insurance Plan and lack of financial assistance and employment opportunities.
The International Student Survey from the Canadian Bureau for International Education showed that over the past decade the number of international students from low-income families has declined from 12 per cent in 1988 to eight per cent in 2009. This can be explained by the incredibly high fees international students are charged.
“When you add up the gross revenue that is brought in from international students, it is at least $5,000 more than a domestic student,” explained Coker. “Over a quarter of the fees they are paying are unidentified.”
Furthermore, the tuition of international students is unregulated, “meaning that their tuition could increase up to 20 per cent per year,” said Anjola Tunde Ojo, an international student from Nigeria, who is currently in her first year in the BBA program at Laurier.
“The fees are a major drawback, we pay almost up to three times everyone else and that’s not including other living expenses like going to the mall,” expressed Tunde Ojo, and her sentiment is accurate. As the report revealed, international students at Laurier are charged 287 per cent more than domestic students.
Yet, international students are extremely valuable to our economy.
“Currently international students contribute over $2 million to the provincial economy,” explained Coker.
This is why the Going Global report advocated for better career opportunities for international students to encourage them to remain in Canada. “We aren’t just asking students to come here to make revenue off of them and then to return home,” said Coker.
The problem of incentive for international students to stay in Canada is not unfounded. Tunde Ojo suggested that she does not see herself in Canada in the long term. “I’m not really sure but maybe I’ll work here for five years and then go back,” she said.
To improve this situation, Coker explained, “We have to offer them something that is valuable if we want to be able to compete and bring the best and the brightest.”
Tunde Ojo also suggested that perhaps a degree from Canada is something valuable in itself. “Even if the cost went up I would not leave … a degree abroad is considered better,” she stated.