Canada International Student Enrollment Increased Fastest By Public Colleges

Canada International Student Enrollment Increased Fastest By Public Colleges
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A spike in international student enrollments that has contributed to rising housing costs and a strain on Canadian infrastructure in being blamed on a handful of publicly-funded colleges in Ontario.

According to a CBC News analysis of data, all but one of the 30 Canadian colleges and universities that granted the most study permits last year was a publicly-funded, post-secondary institution.

Ten Ontario colleges, all of them funded with taxpayer dollars, accounted for almost 30 per cent of study permits in the country over the past three years, reports the Canadian broadcaster.

And 12 publicly-funded colleges in Ontario more than tripled their annual study permit numbers in the five years that ended on Dec. 31, 2023.

Michael Sangster, chief executive officer of the National Association of Career Colleges, isn’t surprised by the results of the CBC News investigation.

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“Of the 599,355 international study permit applications approved or extended by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in 2023, just 4.4 per cent were for regulated career colleges who are members of the industry association I lead,” wrote Sangster in an op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen newspaper.

“This represents a proportional decrease over the past three years, as my member institutions clocked in at 5.2 per cent and 4.8 per cent of new and extended study permit approvals in 2021 and 2022 respectively.”

The findings of the national broadcaster’s investigation also fly in the face of statements made by Canadian politicians that private-sector colleges have been the primary drivers of the spike in the number of international students in Canada.

Immigration Minister Marc Miller has reportedly gone so far as to call these private colleges bad actors that are the “equivalent of puppy mills that are just churning out diplomas.”

While still blaming some private colleges, the immigration minister has since admitted that at least some public colleges have also played their part.

“Some of the really, really bad actors are in the private sphere, and those need to be shut down, but there is responsibility across the board,” Miller has reportedly said. “We just need the provinces in question, in this case Ontario, to assume their responsibility.”

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Last month, the immigration minister capped study permit applications for this year at 606,250.

“The intent of these Instructions is to ensure the number of study permit applications accepted into processing by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration … within the scope of the instructions does not exceed 606,250 study permit applications for one year beginning on the date of signature,” the Canada Gazette reported on Feb. 3.

“As stipulated in these Instructions, certain categories of study permit applications are excluded from the conditions set out in these Instructions and the associated application cap established by these Instructions.”

The Canadian Bureau for International Education (CBIE)’s president and CEO, Larissa Bezo, has called the study permit cap a “blunt instrument” and expressed concern it might have serious unintended consequences.

Study Permit Cap Will Slash Arrival Of New International Students By A Third

“This is not the way we would have chosen to go about addressing these issues of sustainability,” she said.

“But if we look at this from 50,000 feet, what these policy measures do is afford us an opportunity to be more strategic and intentional to ensure a sustainable approach for the long term.”

The CBIE website describes the study permit cap as a hasty one-size-fits-all solution that may jeopardize the benefits of international education that many communities across the country experience and rapidly unravel a strong global Canadian education brand that has taken years to build.

“A 35 per cent reduction in student visas is ultimately a signal to prospective international students around the world that Canada is closing its doors,” notes the CBIE website.

“These measures have the potential to cause irreparable harm to the EduCanada brand, and in a highly-globally competitive market, students may opt to choose other countries instead, well beyond the two-year duration of these measures.”

Exempt from this new cap on international study permits are those international students who already have study permits and are seeking to renew them and the family member of a temporary resident who already has either a work or study permit.

Also exempt from the cap on study permits are:

  • members of the armed forces of a country under the Visiting Forces Act, including a person who has been designated as a civilian component of those armed forces;
  • officers of a foreign governments sent, under exchange agreements between Canada and one or more countries, to take up duties with a federal or provincial agency;
  • participants in sports activities or events, in Canada, either as an individual participant or as a member of a foreign-based team or Canadian amateur team;
  • employees of foreign news companies reporting on events in Canada;
  • people responsible for assisting congregations or groups in the achievement of their spiritual goals and whose main duties are to preach doctrine, perform functions related to gatherings of their congregations or groups or provide spiritual counselling.
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Colin Singer
Colin Singer is an international acclaimed Canadian immigration lawyer and founder of featured on Wikipedia. Colin Singer is also founding director of the Canadian Citizenship & Immigration Resource Center (CCIRC) Inc. He served as an Associate Editor of ‘Immigration Law Reporter’, the pre-eminent immigration law publication in Canada. He previously served as an executive member of the Canadian Bar Association’s Quebec and National Immigration Law Sections and is currently a member of the Canadian Chapter of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Colin has twice appeared as an expert witness before Canada’s House of Commons Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration. He is frequently recognized as a recommended authority at national conferences sponsored by government and non-government organizations on matters affecting Canada’s immigration and human resource industries. Since 2009, Colin has been a Governor of the Quebec Bar Foundation a non-profit organization committed to the advancement of the profession, and became a lifetime member in 2018.