Saskatchewan sees potential rise in international student enrollments amid study permit cap

Experts predict Saskatchewan would attract more international students due to its population size and current permit allocation.

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Saskatchewan universities may experience an increase in international student enrollments, despite the federal government’s cap on undergraduate study permits in Canada, experts suggested.

The allocation model for these study permits is yet to be revealed, but Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada spokesperson Remi Lariviere, in an email to CBC News, said that details will be released after discussions with provinces and territories.

Immigration Minister Marc Miller hinted at possible reductions of around 50 percent in some provinces. However, experts believe Saskatchewan might attract more international students due to its population size and current permit allocation.

The federal government’s decision to limit undergraduate study permits to approximately 360,000 in 2024, reflecting a 35 percent reduction from the previous year, aims to address concerns about certain small private colleges exploiting international students at under-resourced campuses with high tuition fees.

“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,” Mikal Skuterud, an economics professor at the University of Waterloo who studies immigration, said in an interview with CBC News.

The province, with around 13,000 international students at the end of 2022, might add 11,000 annually if allocated three percent of total study permits.

The Saskatchewan Ministry of Advanced Education said in an email that it has not received details on the province’s allocation for 2024 and is actively seeking more information about the cap’s specifics. 

The ministry emphasized the priority of attracting and retaining international students in the province. Meanwhile, the cap will not impact current permit holders already studying in Canada.

Mixed reactions from int’l students

Gurbaz Singh, the student union vice-president of student affairs at the University of Saskatchewan, expressed mixed feelings about the news. 

Singh acknowledged potential benefits, such as improved access to housing and job opportunities, but also cited concerns about adequate resources for incoming students.

As an international student, he was skeptical about the attractiveness of Saskatchewan as a destination compared to more preferred locations for international education.

Impact on the housing market

Singh also addressed concerns about international students being blamed for rising home prices, stating that such messaging felt “vague and targeted.” 

Experts in some provinces suggested that the reduction in international students could open up housing for first-time buyers and low-income rentals.

However, in Saskatchewan, where the surge in students has not significantly affected the housing situation, experts believe that international students may not alter the current housing landscape. 

Jason Childs, an associate economics professor at the University of Regina, said: “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.”

Potential boost to university finances

Despite uncertainties, Saskatchewan universities are optimistic about the potential economic benefits of attracting more international students. 

Childs highlighted the importance of internationalization in enrollment growth, noting that the extra revenue generated from international students directly supports university programming.

According to Statistics Canada, undergraduate international students pay nearly triple the tuition fees compared to domestic students. Therefore, an increase in international student enrollment could prove to be an economic boon for Saskatchewan institutions, aiding in their financial sustainability.

Back in June, the University of Saskatchewan reported that approximately 17 percent of its student population was international. Likewise, in October, the University of Regina reported that nearly one-quarter of its population was international.

As of December last year, Canada had a total of 1,028,850 international students, according to data from IRCC via Immigration.ca. Ontario leads the provinces with the highest international student population at 526,015, followed by British Columbia with 202,565, and Quebec with 117,925.

The notable increase is attributed to the permissive Designated Learning Institution model implemented in specific provinces. 

In 2022, the country hosted 807,260 international students. Surpassing earlier projections, the number of individuals holding valid Canadian study permits reached over 1,015,744 by September 2023.

Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos has been a professional journalist for five years now. She has contributed and covered stories for premier Philippine dailies and publications, and has traveled to different parts of the country to capture and tell the most significant stories happening.

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Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos

Jaleen Ramos has been a professional journalist for five years now. She has contributed and covered stories for premier Philippine dailies and publications, and has traveled to different parts of the country to capture and tell the most significant stories happening.

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