Northern Ontario could potentially see significant economic losses if fewer international students enrol in post-secondary schools due to travel and border restrictions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a briefing note released by Northern Policy Institute, April 23, research analyst Hilary Hagar estimated that Northern Ontario's post-secondary communities, including North Bay,Timmins, Greater Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie and Hearst, could lose $142 million in revenue if the international student enrolment across the region was down by 50 per cent.
At Nothern College, if half the number of anticipated international students enrolled, the college would lose about $3.5 million of revenue from international tuition fees.
Currently, the college has 1,700 full-time students, 700 of whom are international from about 11 different countries.
The college’s international student enrollment depends on whether foreign students will be able to start the September term online while they’re in their home countries and whether travel restrictions will be lifted, said Northern College president and CEO Fred Gibbons.
The college forecasted that the international student enrollment would be downgraded by 50 per cent, he said.
“In our case, a 50 per cent reduction will have an effect on the community. And not just an economic impact,” Gibbons said.
Because many foreign students work part-time to cover their tuition and living expenses, local employers will be impacted by the loss of a part-time workforce if there is a decline in the number of international students, Gibbons said.
Université de Hearst would lose $172,274 in revenue if only half of the international students were enrolled in the college, while Collège Boréal would see a drop of $175,982 with a 50 per cent enrollment.
According to the report, in addition to tuition fees, international students spend a significant amount of money by paying for housing, groceries, transportation, textbooks and supplies, and other discretionary expenses. They are also likely to invite their families and friends to visit them during their studies.
A lack of international students would mean lost revenue from living expenses and visitor expenditures, according to the report.
When considering the combined revenue losses of foreign students and their visitors, the report shows the economic impact in Timmins would be $3.2 million if the enrollment was down by 50 per cent.
“While these findings paint a grim forecast for PSIs and communities in the upcoming months, there is still time to plan,” Hagar said in the report.
“Both administrators of post-secondary institutes and community leaders have the remaining months to strategize and plan a way forward. Time should not be wasted to set these plans in motion.”
Gibbons said the college is working on revising its 2021 fiscal budget and its enrolment forecast for both the domestic and international students but the college is in a good financial position to balance the budget next year.