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International students in Ontario face significant challenges, experts say

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International students in Toronto face tuition, employment, immigration, and housing problems according to a 2018 report.

 march 1, 2019

From their first tuition payment to their post-graduate job hunt, international students consistently encounter obstacles during their time in Ontario, according to experts at a panel on Wednesday.

International undergraduate student tuition has increased since 2013 to last year, by 36 per cent, from $23,688 to $32,370.

International tuition is not capped in Ontario, and can be as much as four times higher than domestic tuition.


Sarah Wayland speaks at a panel about international students at Northeastern University in Toronto on Feb. 13, 2019. From left to right, Wayland, Shruti Paul, Kimberly Bates, Virginia Macchiavello. (RSJ/Dhriti Gupta)

Work permits inflexible

After graduation, many international students have problems finding jobs.

“They seem to fall through the cracks because they’re not under anybody’s responsibility anymore. They’re no longer students, yet they’re only here temporarily, so they don’t really have a network of support,” said Sarah Wayland, author of a report addressing the growing impact of post-secondary international students in Toronto.


As well, the experience students obtained in their home country often doesn’t translate for Canadian employers.

Students who have been working in big firms abroad that don’t have much of a presence in North America “don’t find it easy to find opportunities, or rather don’t find it easy to demonstrate they’re actually building in value to the firm they’re joining,” said Shruti Paul, a final year international MBA student at Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.

Wayland also identified the rigid rules surrounding post-graduate work permits as a hindrance to international students. Students who have to miss a semester for a family emergency, or whose marks fall below a certain threshold for a semester, are at risk of losing their permit.


“They’re skilled, they’re young, they’ve already chosen Canada once, they’re fluent in English or French, enough to graduate with a Canadian diploma or degree,” Wayland said. “So, why are we making it difficult for them to transition into permanent residency and citizenship?”

Without a credit history, regular income, understanding of the rental system or any relatives in Canada who could act as her guarantor, Paul could not find a landlord who would give her the time of day.

“This is not to say there are no student-friendly accommodations here, they actually exist, they’re just hard to come by,” Paul said. “But because a lot of them promote through very informal networks, you may not find them on formal platforms, especially if I’m looking for a room at an affordable price.”

During her study, Paul did find a number of resources available to her and other international students. Her peers developed a language exchange program, where a student who needs help with English can teach an English-speaking student how to speak another language. But she also understands these resources are not necessarily the norm.


 Shruti Paul poses at Northeastern University in Toronto on Feb. 13, 2019. (RSJ/Dhriti Gupta)

different languages, different markets

“A lot of these things right now exist at a very microscopic scale, where different colleges and different universities will do it in different ways for their own set of students,” Paul said. “I think there may be value in collecting all of that and centralizing it maybe, so that there can be a consistent message that goes out to everybody and you don’t have to rely on whether or not your own school does it.”

Wayland believes some employment problems can be remedied by the promotion of the value international students bring to Toronto.

“We know that export rates are quite low among Canadian firms, and there’s a huge opportunity there for hiring international students who speak different languages, who can connect to different markets, who understand how business is done in other economies,” she said.

In terms of immigration, Wayland recommends the encouragement of early immigration planning by schools and the easing of immigration requirements as a whole.

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