By now, you’ve probably heard Minister Miller’s announcement that Canada is going to be capping the number of new international students that will be allowed to enter Canada. (For more information, please see our article on the announcement here.)
However, there’s a lot of uncertainty about how this is going to play out for future applicants. In the coming weeks and months, Minister Miller and the Federal and Provincial governments will clarify what these rule changes mean, but for now, it may be helpful to take in the lay of the land and engage in a little prognostication of what we can expect.
What We Know
- 2 Year Cap on new International Student Study Permits
The cap for 2024 is suspected to be 360,000 new study permits. It’s likely that 2025 will have the same cap on new Canadian students. This is a massive 35% reduction compared to the number of new study permits that were issued in 2023.
It’s important to note that Canadian international students attending primary and secondary schools are exempt from the cap, along with international students pursuing Masters and PhDs. Additionally, at this time, it looks like people seeing study permit renewals or extensions will also avoid being counted in the cap.
- The Federal Government will allocate a proportion of available study permits to each province individually.
The number of study permits available to each province will be weighted by population, which “will result in much more significant decreases in provinces where the international student population has seen the most unsustainable growth.
Once the provinces and territories have received their allocated number of permits, it will be the responsibility of the provincial and territorial governments to determine how those permits will be divided amongst the colleges and universities.
- Applicants for international study permits for undergraduate programs will need additional documentation to support the application.
Students applying for undergraduate programs will need an additional letter of attestation from the province or territory their school is in. The provinces and territories have until March 30, 2024, to decide what this will look like for their respective regions.
- No more spousal open work permits for undergraduate students.
Students working on Masters and PhD-level programs can still apply for their partner to join them.
- Changes to the PGWP program.
Certain students who start an undergrad program in September 2024 will be ineligible for PGWPs at the end of their studies. At this time, it looks like students attending private colleges will be most affected by this change.
Additionally, new Masters students will be able to apply directly for 3-year work permits. Previously, the PGWP that Masters graduates could apply for was limited by the length of their program, which was usually only 1 to 2 years. In an effort to retain people who achieved higher degrees, Canada is offering Masters graduates the full 3-year PGWP.
The biggest unknown is how this is going to affect the provinces and schools directly.
Assumption 1: Funding
It’s been speculated by some news sources reporting on these changes that Ontario, British Columbia, and Nova Scotia could be hardest hit by the implementation of these caps, cutting off the supply (and money) of international students.
In Ontario, for example, there is a big funding problem with the public colleges and universities. In the 2008/2009 academic year, 54.4% of revenue for Ontario colleges came from public funding, and 28.2% came from student fees. Over at the Ontario universities for the same period, 53.7% of revenue came from public funding, with 29.9% of funding coming from student fees.
Flash forward a decade, and these totals are almost completely inverted. For the 2019/2020 school year, public funding of colleges decreased to 32.2% while their reliance on student fees increased to 54%. Universities saw a similar switch for the 2019/2020 year, with 41.9% of the revenue coming from student fees and only 35.5% coming from public funding. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/220120/dq220120c-eng.htm
Additionally, in 2019, Premier Doug Ford’s government announced that domestic tuition fees would be reduced by 10% and the tuition fees frozen at those 2019 levels. This move has made Ontario colleges and universities increasingly dependent on international students since public funding is regularly reduced and increasing fees for domestic students isn’t an option at present.
The increase in international students over this period is largely credited with keeping Ontario’s colleges and universities afloat as public funding gets cut year after year. In some schools, like Kitchener, Ontario’s Conestoga College, there are approximately 30,000 Canadian international students in attendance, which is about 71% of their total student body.
Assumption 2: Refocusing Density
Ostensibly, the reason for imposing these caps is because of the housing shortage, and it stands to reason that areas with the densest populations can expect to receive the fewest slices of the international student pie.
This could mean schools centered in the Greater Toronto Area could feel the brunt of this reduction. To name a few of the biggest schools in the area, there’s: University of Toronto; York University; Toronto Metropolitan University; Sheridan College; George Brown College; Humber College; Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD) University; and Centennial College.
It’s fair to expect that schools in Toronto and other locations with already critically low vacancy rates will feel the brunt of these caps as Ontario attempts to direct their proportion of international students to communities more likely to have space to house them.
Assumption 3: Program Restructuring
Where post-graduate diploma and certificate programs will land as universities and colleges adapt to these changes is uncertain at present. It is likely that they’ll be counted among the undergraduate programs and subjected to the cap.
From an immigration perspective, these programs were already difficult to get approved for first-time study permits, and it’s questionable how popular these programs were amongst international and domestic students anyway.
It’s possible we could see many universities evolve these post-graduate diplomas and certificates into full Masters programs in order to get around the cap and keep the money flowing.
Assumption 3.5: Reduced Choice and Support for Everyone
As the universities and colleges navigate their way through the next 2 years and prepare for whatever lies beyond, it’s probably safe to assume that this could result in fewer programming choices at all levels for students—both domestic and international.
The requirement to tighten their belts at Queen’s University is already seeing many programs across all levels being cut. Specialty classes with fewer than 10 students will be suspended in the coming semesters. Depending on how niche the program is, entire degrees could be lost if it is not popular enough among Canadian international students.
It’s not just the academics that could feel the pressure, as support programs, clubs, and extracurriculars could be subject to these cuts as well. https://www.thewhig.com/news/queens-students-worry-as-programs-face-temporary-suspension
Assumption 4: Consolidation/Mergers
Even before the cap was announced, Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, was already under significant financial pressure and making millions of dollars in cuts to remain afloat. News sources are reporting that at least 12 other Ontario universities face similar financial difficulties.
Kingston, Ontario, is also home to Loyalist College. It is common in cities where a college and university share space for there to be cross-institution programming. In our efforts to save costs, it’s possible we may see cities with similar pairings merge into one rather than close entirely.
As the federal and provincial governments decide how this cap is going to look, these assumptions will be verified or not, but in the meantime, it’s not a bad idea to brace ourselves for what form these changes will take and how they will impact the lives of current and future students, both international and domestic.