By: Celestina Aleobua
Canada, a nation that prides itself for its multiculturalism, being a “melting pot” of all cultures, and with equal rights for all, has failed to provide substantial justification for why international students pay significantly higher tuition fees than domestic students.
Currently, international students pay almost four times the amount of fees that local students pay, though the amount can vary by school or degree. However, international students do not receive any added benefits. International and domestic students share the same facilities, the same professors and tutors, and the same bus services. Additionally, they are not eligible for most scholarships, or for financial aid services such as the Ontario Students Assistance Program (OSAP) that are available to local students. This begs the question of why there is a huge disparity between local and international student fees.
One common argument justifying the high price of international student fees is that international students do not contribute to the Canadian economy, because they do not pay taxes, and should therefore be charged more in tuition. International students may not pay income tax, but they definitely contribute to the economy in terms of expenditure. A 2012 study by Foreign Affairs, Trade, and Development Canada on the Economic Impact of International Education in Canada said, “in 2010, international students in Canada spent in excess of $7.7 billion on tuition, accommodation and discretionary spending; created over 81,000 jobs; and generated more than $445 million in government revenue.”
The report also goes on to state that international students in Canada make a significant contribution to the economy, and it recommends that Canada “ensure that international students are recognized and supported commensurate to their importance to Canada.” Educational institutions recognize that the international students that can currently afford their high fees are those that are affluent, and they share this view of these students being valuable. However, this view puts them at a huge disadvantage.
The arguments of domestic students agreeing with the high international student fees stems from the expectation that there be available space for all Canadian citizens in educational institutions, and that there should be a priority for admissions given to local students over international students. Institutions limit the amount of admissions given to local students and free up space for international students in order to reap the full financial benefits.
Educational institutions excuse general increases in fees with lack of funding from the government. According to the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, increments in local student fees are capped at three percent every year, however for international students, no such limit exists. International students are vulnerable to tuition increments at the discretion of the educational institution. This is simply unfair.
Entering Canada as an international student is like being the eleventh man in line at the opening of a new H&M. The first ten people get a discount, and the rest settle for the inflated prices. Canada comprises of many different cultures, and in this sense, Canadian students are no different from international students. It is high time Canada includes the eleventh man in the discount club.