International student blues International students require more care and support than McMaster is currently offering

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The latest research from organizations such as Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development, Council of Ontario Universities and the Canadian Federation of Students paint a grim picture for international student attending a postsecondary institution in Ontario. Despite the growing international student population, their tuition has risen at a remarkable rate — meant to make up for reductions in government grants.

At McMaster, this gap is just as obvious. A domestic, full-time student enrolling in a program such as life sciences will pay $7228.79 in tuition fees whereas an international student in the same program will pay $25,923.88. International students also do not have access to needs-based scholarships McMaster offers, though they do have access to an international student bursary.

Likewise, due to stipulations in their student visas, international students are limited to working 20 hours a week off-campus during the school year and can only take on internships and co-op placements if they are explicitly a part of their degree.

It is unfair to expect international students to foot the bill of our education when McMaster is a public university. These funds should be coming from the provincial government. Targeting a group that is expected to pay such a high fee and actively recruiting them over domestic students is unethical to all parties involved as it drains resources from one group while taking opportunity from another. High tuition costs also ensure we limit international students to only those of means, which can alienate students who may want to attend McMaster in order to flee hardships or prejudice in their home country.

In addition, it is clear that this money is not being re-invested into supporting international students who attend our universities. McMaster’s International Student Services office mainly focuses on helping students with immigration issues and offers some programming like a mentorship program and English classes. The “Student Life” section of their website mainly focuses on getting international students to explore Hamilton and informs them of popular Hamilton events such as Supercrawl. There is little evidence of support services on their website.

“Considering how many extra fees international students pay, it would only be fair to us that other support services were put in place to ensure that international students’ mental and physical health is being cared for,” said Paula Daidone, a McMaster alumna. Daidone was an international student of McMaster’s Communications Studies program, and is currently enrolled in the McMaster Communication Studies Masters’ program.

Under “Campus Support Services,” the three McMaster Student Union-run services listed are MSU Spark, the Queer Student Community Centre and Diversity Services. Spark focuses on first-year transition, the QSCC offers peer support and programming for LGBTQ students and Diversity Services focuses on creating an inclusive environment for students of colour and other marginalized groups.

While these three services are undeniably relevant to international students, why is Diversity Services, a service geared more towards advocacy and education rather than support, listed when services such as Peer Support Line, the Women and Gender Equity Network, Maccess and the Student Health Education Centre all have on-campus spaces equipped with peer-support volunteers? The page reads as though someone looked through the MSU services tab 10 years ago and picked the first three that sounded right.

Similarly, only two MSU clubs are listed: McMaster International and Exchange Club and McMaster Outdoors Club. This is particularly odd given how many cultural associations exist at McMaster that attract many international students who wish to connect with those from their home country.

While this is likely because the ISS wants international students to integrate into the community rather than only befriending other international students, it exemplifies how little they understand the immigration process and how being surrounded by people with the same lived experiences as you can aid in the immigration process.

The website’s focus is clear: recruitment, recruitment, recruitment. International students are expected to crawl through the pages and pages of services and clubs the student union has to offer despite many groups explicitly supporting them. I’d willingly wager that they have not updated most aspects of the Support section of their webpage since it was created.

If a student were to exclusively use the ISS’s website to integrate themselves into the McMaster and Hamilton community, they would struggle.

If McMaster as an institution is going to focus on international student recruitment, the very least they could do is ensure that the immigration process is as smooth as possible outside of the legal aspects. Immigrating to a new country alone is a difficult endeavor, as is adjusting to university. If proper support services outside of simply helping them get into the country and speaking English are implemented, McMaster will continue to be a disservice to the international students who pay for bills.

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