The British Columbia Federation of Students (BCFS) has released a research document outlining many of the issues facing international students in British Columbia. The document focuses on BC’s economic dependence on international students, the instability of unregulated tuition fees, and the lack of support services for international students in BC.

“International students come to Canada hoping to access one of the top ranked countries for higher education in the world,” said Aran Armutlu, Chairperson of the BCFS. “But while they’re here, their tuition fees can increase at any time with no notice; unpredictable fee increases result in an inability for students to properly budget for their time in BC.”

BC charges the second-highest tuition fees for international students in Canada, outpaced only by Ontario; currently, average fees are $23,000 annually – a 64 percent increase since 2006. Because there is no regulation of tuition fee increases for international students, in spring 2018 alone some institutions increased fees by 15 and 20 percent.

BC hosts about one-third of all international students studying in Canada and as such they have become an important component of BC’s economy. Annually international students spend over $3.1 billion in the province, which creates more than 26,000 jobs and contributes in excess of $1.7 billion to BC’s GDP.

“From a purely economic perspective, it is in the best interest of the government to ensure BC continues to be an attractive destination for international study,” said Armutlu. “The unpredictable nature of international tuition fee increases could force international students to turn elsewhere to complete their studies, leaving our institutions without enrolment and stripping millions from our economy in lost spending — affecting all of us in BC.”

The research document concludes with two recommendations: the regulation of fees for international students; and the establishment of an international education strategy to provide sufficient supports for international students. This would create fairness, consistency, and predictability for international student studying in our province.

The BC Federation of Students represents over 130,000 students at 13 universities and colleges in every region of BC. Together, these students advocate for a well-funded system of post-secondary education in BC that is affordable and accessible for all students.