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Opinion: Don Curry, Drastic immigration changes will affect Canadore and North Bay

Ontario froze domestic tuition fees for colleges and universities, forcing the schools to rely on international students — often paying three times the tuition fee of a domestic student — and leading Canadore to forge public-private partnerships with colleges in the GTA to change its financial picture
File photo of the main campus at Canadore College.

Federal Immigration Minister Marc Miller has forced the Ontario Tory government of Doug Ford to act on its out-of-control public-private college partnerships that are largely responsible for the massive study permit increases for international students in Ontario.

The immigration measures announced by the federal minister at a cabinet retreat on January 22 amount to the most significant changes we have seen in years … and the effects will be noticeable at Canadore College and in North Bay.

It has dominated the news cycle in the past few days.

Ontario will end up with roughly 50 per cent fewer study permits this fall. Students at private colleges will no longer be eligible for Post-Graduation Work Permits. Spouses of undergraduate students will no longer be eligible for open work permits.

These are huge changes, and they are warranted, given the surge of international students’ effect on housing, private colleges likened by the minister to “puppy mills,” and the surge of cheap labour for business owners.

Other changes are still in the works. For years international students were allowed to work 20 hours per week on or off campus. That number was bumped to 40, and will soon be reduced to 35, 30, 25 or 20. No one knows, yet.

With Ontario as the biggest offender, it will be affected the most. The cut in study permits amounts to about 35 per cent across Canada, but Ontario will be cut about 50 per cent.

I expect Canadore President George Burton and our MPP, Vic Fedeli have been in contact with one another.

The Ontario government has only itself to blame. It froze domestic tuition fees for colleges and universities a number of years ago, forcing them to rely more on the revenue international students bring in, often paying three times the tuition fee of a domestic student.

This led to entrepreneurial colleges, like Canadore, creating public-private partnerships with colleges in the GTA, and changing their financial picture from dire to building up their reserves.

No longer.

Students long ago figured out our immigration system. The fastest track to permanent residence was to attend a college or university, get a three-year PGWP, get a job and apply for permanent residence. That will still happen, but the numbers won’t be as large.

The lure of private colleges will be gone, with no work permit available at the end. Suddenly, there is no point in attending one.

Married students will be more reluctant to come to Canada because their spouses will no longer qualify for an open work permit.

Mr. Miller effectively handed the ball to Doug Ford and his government and said to figure out which colleges and universities should get study permits, because you have half as many as this year. Education is a provincial responsibility.

College and university presidents and their leadership teams have a lot to swallow with these huge changes. Business plans have to be drastically changed. Partnerships with private colleges have to be re-examined, or discontinued.

Canadore, like all the other colleges and universities in Ontario, was hit hard by the tuition freeze. It reacted, quicker than most, and accepted large numbers of international students, with many of them in the GTA, never venturing to our lovely city.

The college went from cash-strapped to budget surpluses, but these changes will slow the growth of its international student component. The change could be severe, or moderate, depending on how the Ford government allocates its study permit quota.

The quick answer is to shut out private colleges entirely. If that is the direction, the impact on Canadore will be severe.

If the answer is also to raise domestic tuition rates to where they should be, the impact will still be noticed, but won’t be as severe.

It won’t be just Canadore feeling the effects. Local businesses have benefitted from cheap labour from international students and their spouses. Come this fall, that labour pool will be reduced, based on the spousal ban alone.

More immigration changes will be coming. Mr. Miller has yet to announce, officially, that the Rural and Northern Immigration Pilot program will become a permanent program, or, at least, be extended. He said it would be expanded at an Ottawa news conference in November, but since then … crickets.

RNIP has had a huge influence in North Bay, and once made permanent should keep the flow of students coming to Canadore and Nipissing University, with the end goal of permanent residence.

The flow to the private colleges may well dry up, as it should.

Editor’s Note:  Don Curry is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant living in North Bay, and a member of BayToday’s community advisory council.

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Don Curry

About the Author: Don Curry

Don Curry is a Regulated Canadian Immigration Consultant and president of Curry Immigration Consulting and a former journalism instructor
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