International Education: Acknowledging the Need for More Oversight is the First Step in Addressing BC’s Precarious Funding Model and Overreliance on International Student Tuition Fees
Students across BC are once again calling for the provincial government to implement more protections for international students and to reassess how it funds the province’s public post-secondary institutions following last week’s announcement of a 2-year cap on the number of study permits being awarded by the federal government.
The British Columbia Federation of Students (BCFS) commends the BC Government for unveiling a plan with several measures aimed at curbing exploitive practices seen in the recruitment of international students, including a new requirement to provide fee transparency.
“We know that international students need more protection when they come to Canada and that international education requires further oversight to address the unregulated growth and lack of appropriate student supports across the country,” said Melissa Chirino, Chairperson of the BCFS. “This a good first step and an acknowledgment of what we have been saying over the years. But more needs to be done.”
For years, the BCFS has warned about the precarity, and vulnerability created by the overreliance on international student tuition fees as a form of funding. In 2000, provincial funding made up 68% of institutional operational revenue. Now in 2023, it makes up only 40%. The Federation sees it as critical to return to a model where the government resumes its role as the main source of funding so that our public institutions are able to keep the lights on, provide critical services to students, and deliver quality education to learners as they were intended to.
“Our priority is for student’s needs to be centered as next steps are taken. We want to ensure international students are protected, tuition fees aren’t being viewed as a way to cover potential institutional budget shortfalls and services that students rely on aren’t being cut,” said Chirino. “The situation is dire. It’s time to work together to address the root of what’s led to exploitative international recruitment.”
The Federation is concerned that institutions will continue to raise international student tuition fees to offset potential losses in revenue. The Federal government has allotted approximately 360,000 study permits beginning September 2024, a decrease of 35%, that will be distributed to province’s based on population size. BC has roughly 195,000 international students who study here, of them, 82,000 attend public post-secondary institutions. Based on population, stakeholders estimate BC will receive roughly 50,000 study permits.
“We are committed to working with the provincial government and institutions to remedy the reliance on international student fees that has led to students being exploited and our system becoming fragile to the point of breaking,” said Chirino. “With consistent, stable, and predictable funding for post-secondary institutions, the financial predation on students, both international and domestic, will no longer be seen as necessary for an institution’s survival.”
Now is our opportunity to intentionally address the issues in the post-secondary system to find long-term solutions that protect and meet the needs of students. Over the coming weeks we will continue to monitor the situation, ensure your concerns are amplified and keep you updated as we learn how new measures will be rolled out.
The Province says the new measures are aimed at bringing in higher standards and greater accountability for educational institutions in B.C and will help prevent institutions from taking advantage of international students.
Key changes include:
- Pausing growth of institutions offering international education: The Province will pause approvals for two years, until February 2026, of new post-secondary institutions seeking to enrol international students.
- Enhanced compliance and enforcement: The Province will implement more frequent inspections of private post-secondary institutions to ensure that new and improved quality standards are met and that students are properly supported.
- Higher standards for private degree programs: To ensure students receive quality education, private degree programs will need to meet higher standards for approval. Standards include higher assessment criteria for degree quality, demonstrated labour-market need for graduates and appropriate resources, and student supports.
- New language requirements for private institutions: The Province is setting minimum language requirements at private training institutions to ensure new international students are better prepared for their educational and professional journey in B.C.
- Tuition transparency: Public post-secondary institutions will be required to post tuition levels for students for the entire time they are studying. This ensures incoming students know the entire costs of their education before they start their program.
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