Canada tightens international student rules

For months now, officials have been saying that the 800,000 foreign students at Canadian universities and colleges are putting too much pressure on housing and the labour market.

Here’s what they plan to do about it.

Driving the news: The federal government is now responding to growing criticism around international student programs with a plan to hold schools to higher standards when it comes to services, support, and outcomes for students — including ensuring adequate housing.

  • As the number of study permit applications connected to fraudulent acceptance letters rises, schools will also have to confirm every student’s admission status.
  • The measures don’t include capping the number of Canadian study permits or limiting work opportunities for students, ideas that were floated just last month

Catch-up: Foreign students are charged an average of five times as much as Canadian students, leaving schools eager to cash in as provincial funding shrinks. Colleges catering to foreigners are also popping up in places like strip malls, most notably in Brampton, Ontario.

  • Per Bloomberg, from 2019 to 2020, foreigners paid 37% of tuition at Canadian universities, while in 2021, those students paid 68% of tuition at Ontario colleges.

Big picture: You might remember that last month, CIBC Deputy Chief Economist Benjamin Tal found the government had undercounted the number of non-permanent residents in Canada residents by one million — about 250,000 of which were international students. 

  • Those 250,000 students require housing (and possibly work) across major Canadian cities, but are missing from projections around housing or labour market needs.
  • The situation is so bad that students have been found sleeping on the street, and flooded labour markets in some regions mean many are struggling to find work

Bottom line: Canada’s approach to international student programs is no longer working for both students and residents, exacerbating problems that are high on the economic priority list. New measures are a start, but the government has said more needs to be done.—SB