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HomeNewsCampusDurham College officials hopeful about changes to international study permits

Durham College officials hopeful about changes to international study permits

A month after the federal government announced it was reducing the number of new international study permits, Durham College (DC) is still uncertain about the impact.

However, some officials say there is some reason to be positive.

Immigration Minister Marc Miller said the changes are expected to reduce the intake of international students by 35 per cent over the next two years, capping study permits at 360,000 across Canada.

“If we were to operate on the assumption that there could be a 35 per cent decline, that would be a large decrease in revenue for the college,” said Peter Garret, manager of strategic reporting and government relations at DC.

According to the college’s 2023- 2024 business plan, forecasted revenue from international students was $45 million, making up about 20 per cent of the total forecasted academic revenue.

“There are restrictions on what we can do. So we can’t just go out, be a smart centre, and lease a building. We’re not for profit or a crown corporation,” Garret said.

He said DC is looking into alternative revenue-generating strategies to compensate for the potential lost revenue, such as forming new community partnerships and applying for grants, and leveraging its online courses.

On top of this, DC was involved in the blue-ribbon panel on post-secondary education, which recommended a 10 per cent increase in per-student funding, an increase in OSAP, and an increase in grants or scholarships.

Compared with other colleges in the province, DC has one of the smallest international-to-domestic student ratios and won’t be as affected by the change.

According to Aldo Mendizabal, the associate director of international recruitment and admissions at DC, about 3,800 international students made up 31 per cent of the college’s total full-time students in September 2023.

“We’ve always been careful about managing our international student population. Some other colleges have gone without boundaries, let’s say,” Mendizabal said.

Most international students come from three countries, India, Nigeria and Nepal, with about 90 countries represented.

“[The cap] will affect us a little bit regarding the total numbers that we can recruit. But overall, I don’t think it will affect us much compared to other colleges,” he said.

Days after the cap was announced, the provincial government announced an end to new Public-Private-Partnerships (PPP) for colleges.

A PPP is an agreement between a public college and a private partner that allows international students to study at a private college, often a major city, while still earning a credential from a public college. This allows them to apply for a work permit.

This has helped colleges in the face of a tuition freeze for domestic students in 2019, after being reduced by 10 per cent the year before.

Some colleges compensated for the lost revenue with international student tuition through PPPs.

However, DC is one of six post-secondary institutions in the province without one.

Meanwhile, international students looking to start this fall must provide a letter of attestation from the respective province or territory of their studies.

The letters are intended to keep provinces accountable for the number of students they bring in.

“We still don’t have all the details on the cap,” Mendizabal said. “We don’t know how many students we’re going to get, what the process (of the letters of attestation) will look like when it will start, if there will be fees attached or how long it will take.”

Once the verification system is in place, Mendizabal guesses it will add a couple of weeks to the enrolment process for international students but increase visa success rates.

“Right now, the major issue is the uncertainty, not only for international students, but also for colleges and the government,” Mendizabal said.

He and Garrett are optimistic the changes will protect future international students from bad players.