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Canada | Experts Say Cap On International Students Could Affect Saskatchewan

Canada | Experts Say Cap On International Students Could Affect Saskatchewan 

an outdoor photo of the University of Saskatchewan grounds in the winter
While some universities could have their incoming international student population reduced by about 50 per cent, some experts say Saskatchewan universities could see an uptick after a recently announced federal cap on undergraduate international students. (Travis Reddaway/CBC)

Depending on how the federal government divides its newly announced limit on undergraduate study permits for international students this year, Saskatchewan universities could see an uptick, experts say.

On Monday, Ottawa said it would cap undergraduate study permits for international students for the next two years, approving about 360,000 undergraduate study permits in 2024, a 35 per cent reduction from 2023.

The plan is meant to target some small private colleges that are taking advantage of international students at under-resourced campuses while charging high tuition fees.

In an email on Monday, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada spokesperson Remi Lariviere said more information about the allocation model will be released after discussions with provinces and territories, but provincial and territorial caps will be based on population.

Marc Miller, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, outlined Monday how the federal government plans to cap the number of international students in Canada.

Federal Immigration Minister Marc Miller said some provinces could have a total permit reduction of about 50 per cent.

But some economic experts say Saskatchewan could bring in more international students than before the cap because of its population and current permit allocation.

“If anything, you’re going to have more study permits to allocate than you used to, so you might see increases, it might go the other way for Saskatchewan,” said Mikal Skuterud, an economics professor at the University of Waterloo who studies immigration.

At the end of 2022, Saskatchewan had about 13,000 total international students. If it is allocated three per cent of the total study permits — three per cent being Saskatchewan’s portion of Canada’s total population — it could add 11,000 international students each year.

In an email, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Advanced Education said it has not received details on the province’s allocation of study permits for 2024 and is working to learn more about the cap details.

“Ensuring Saskatchewan can attract and retain international students is a priority for the province,” it said.

The cap will not affect current permit holders already studying in Canada.

Mixed reaction from international student

Gurbaz Singh said that when he first heard the news, he thought it would mean fewer international students at the University of Saskatchewan — an idea he had mixed feelings about.

The student union vice-president of student affairs said it’s not a bad directive, and could better access housing and job opportunities.

“If we allow students in bulk to come here, we are actually doing an injustice to them because we will not be able to provide them with adequate resources,” Singh said.

At the same time, he sympathized with students trying to study internationally and obtaining a strong education overseas, as he is.

When Singh heard there could be more international students coming to Saskatchewan, he was skeptical about how many would choose to come to the province instead of a more preferred destination.

 Canada, but that the government should have sought more feedback.

How will this affect the housing market?

Singh said as an international student, some of the messaging that blamed international students for rising home prices felt “vague and targeted.” In some provinces, experts say the reduction to international students could open up more housing for first-time home buyers and low-income rentals.

The federal government will cap the number of student visas over the next two years. To find out more host Theresa Kliem talks with Gurbaz Singh, an international student at the University of Saskatchewan and is Vice-President of Student Affairs for the U of S Student Union. Theresa also talks with Mikal Skuterud, an economics professor at the University of Waterloo who studies immigration, to get a broader perspective. Good morning. this a topic of disccusion right across the country, not just here in our city. So for a broader perspective on immigration and the economy, we are joined now by

Skuterud argued that while international students haven’t been the sole reason for rising home prices, to say it has had no mark on housing prices in Canada is “putting your head in the sand.”

But in Saskatchewan, where the student surge hasn’t been as affected, experts say international students haven’t and likely won’t alter the current housing situation.

“It’s not going to move the needle in either city a great deal because there just aren’t that many international students in either of the Saskatchewan major metropolitan areas,” said Jason Childs, an associate economics professor at the University of Regina.

He also agreed that Saskatchewan could catch some of the students diverted from places more affected by the cap and increase its own student enrolment during the two years of the cap.

An outdoor shot of homes being built
Experts say while housing in other provinces with higher numbers of international students could improve, it’s not likely to change in Saskatchewan. (CBC)

More int’l students could mean more university money

The typical recruitment efforts seeking domestic students remain fairly static, leading the Saskatchewan universities to look beyond its borders for growth.

“We’ve seen a bulk of our enrolment growth come from this internationalization,” Childs said.

“Those extra dollars that go right to the university’s bottom line and support programming are coming from these international students.”

In June 2023, the University of Saskatchewan reported about 17 per cent of its student population was international.

In October 2023, the University of Regina reported nearly one-quarter of its population was international.

Given that undergraduate international students pay nearly triple what domestic students pay, according to Statistics Canada, a rise in students could be an economic boon for the institutions.

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