The Conservative Party has put together a highly detailed analysis of the high tuition costs for foreign students in the Ontario University and College system. A quick look at the report’s chart shows how the quality of the educational system often declines with the addition of university and college students who come from high cost countries such as China, India, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom.
We made three points in the report:
1. The vast majority of non-resident students come from countries that pay very high prices for higher education. For example, a student from China whose tuition averages at least US$1,900 per year at a small private university can pay over US$100,000 in tuition over four years at a public research university. These costs are even higher at Ontario’s top research universities, such as the University of Toronto, who charge in excess of US$40,000 per year. These high costs decrease the quality of the education available in Ontario as the university enrolls students with little to no ability to pay, and serves as a recruitment tool for the states and countries that pay over US$40,000 per year for their students to go to the universities and colleges here. These colleges also provide the Canadian institutions with extra fee income.
2. We conclude the students who come to Canada from the United States and other similar high fee countries do not benefit the Canadian tax payer either. The transfer value of tuition paid by these students is insignificant for the tax payer, especially when the fees are supplemented by tuition, fees and housing payments charged to the Canadian institution. This transfer of funds should be considered when assessing the cost of education in the Ontario university and college system and international student fees.
3. We recommend that the Ontario government should put a limit on the amount of spending that is borrowed for public universities by having them use the surplus money from their student loan program to cover the cost of tuition. This is not only a cost efficient way to do things, but it allows the universities to continue to serve Canadians. If a private university such as the University of Toronto receives over US$25,000 in student loan funding for the cost of educating an international student, why would we expect such an expensive program to provide similar access to Canadians when they could provide the same kind of learning and access to opportunity for Canadians without taking out massive amounts of public debt?
Ontario university and college students are not benefitting from international students, and taxpayers in Ontario are paying a large debt for these students. As our research shows, the big private sector universities receive an incredible amount of free money to attract students from high cost countries, which subsequently results in an expansion of their capacity to enroll more students. If it were not for the massive amounts of free money that taxpayers from these high cost countries put on the table for their universities, it would be no surprise to see these universities doing more with less funding than what they currently do. It is shocking that the same public funding has been given to these private university institutions than to the universities that educate local students for the benefit of Ontario’s taxpayers.
Sandra Pupatello served as Minister of Education in the former Ontario government. She currently serves as Chair of the College Football Committee of the Saskatchewan Union of Students.