International students are an integral part of our university campus, making Trent more diverse and contributing to the academic community.
Between 2000 and 2010, the number of international students at Ontario colleges increased five-fold, while the number of international students at Ontario universities almost tripled.
International students have a large economic impact, contributing $3 billion yearly to the province’s economy through paying tuition fees, spending on basic living expenses, income taxes and consumer spending.
Despite these significant contributions, international students are faced with various challenges when it comes to access to post-secondary education, health care and immigration processes.
Here at Trent University, new undergraduate international students pay nearly triple ($17,773) the tuition fees of domestic students ($6,040) for the same education. This figure excludes the UHIP, ancillary, and levies fees ($648, $1,228, and $769 respectively) international students pay each year. Now is that fair?
As successive provincial governments have cut funding from public post-secondary education, institutions have used differential fees for international students as a revenue generating strategy.
Many international students feel as though they are seen as an easy revenue source as they are perceived as having less direct political influence in Canada.
In 1994, the Ontario government eliminated coverage for international students from the Ontario Health Insurance Program (OHIP) and now all international students attending university in Ontario must pay for a private, for-profit health insurance program called the University Health Insurance Program (UHIP).
This for-profit health insurance plan provides limited health coverage that is not accepted universally by physicians, hospitals and clinics in Ontario. Provinces like British Columbia, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia currently include international students in their provincial health insurance programs, so why not Ontario?
Students across the province are also voicing their concerns with issues regarding immigration and are seeing many victories. The Canadian Federation of Students has the only student seat on the Immigration Advisory Board for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT). Through such channels the Federation has been actively advocating improving the quality, experience and services offered to international students.
As a result the student movement has seen many victories such as the Government announcing new regulations for Study permits (Student Visa) that will automatically authorize international students to work-off campus up to 20 hours per week during the academic session and full-time during scheduled breaks without the need to apply for a separate work permit.
Let’s hope this is only the beginning as the TCSA launches the Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario Fairness for International Students campaign, to address the challenges faced by international students on our campus.
It calls for the elimination of differential fees and the restoration of post-secondary funding for international students; the elimination of UHIP and simultaneously, restoration of OHIP for international students; and the continuous advocacy for immigration policy initiatives and changes to ensure international students lives in Canada is easier.
Spread the word and share the facts. And act now. It starts with us!