Statement by Marketa Evans – Allocation of international study permits

Ontario’s public colleges are pleased the province is allocating 80 per cent of the international study permit applications to the public colleges.

This is clear recognition that public college education is essential to ensuring the province has a workforce equipped with the talent and professional expertise to succeed in key sectors. This is particularly important in priority sectors such as health care, the skilled trades, technology and hospitality.

Public college graduates fuel Ontario’s prosperity. They build highways and homes. They care for people in hospitals, long-term homes and day cares. And they lead the transition to a cleaner economy, filling key roles in the electric-vehicle and nuclear industries.

While we appreciate the government’s decision on the study-permit applications, we regret more has not been done to plan for and aid in the financial recovery of the public college sector during this abrupt change.

The federal government’s cuts to study permit applications were implemented without any consultation or adjustment period.

This has already resulted in the collapse of the spring cohort at public colleges, which represents about 25 per cent of total college enrolment. This has resulted in significant efforts to reduce costs, as colleges are not permitted to run unfunded deficits.

The consequences include immediate program suspensions and a pause on capital investments that include investments in student housing.

There will be a severe impact on the fall term at public colleges, with revenue losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars. No organization can absorb such losses without significant cuts to operations. 

The business model for funding public college programs is severely broken. While recent stabilization measures from the province are welcome, the majority of the financial support continues to go to Ontario’s universities.

The per-student investment in each public college student is only 50 cents when compared with each dollar invested in a university student - even though college programs are no less expensive to deliver.

Furthermore, the public colleges’ ability to deliver quality programs continues to be harmed by the ongoing tuition freeze that was implemented after the province cut tuition by 10 per cent in 2019.

This unnecessary tuition freeze continues despite the fact Ontario’s public colleges have the second-lowest tuition in Canada. The typical tuition for a full-time public college program in Ontario is currently only about $2,700 per year.

While tremendous uncertainty remains, we are already certain that domestic students and employers will be harmed by the imminent cuts and cancellations to programs.

In spite of these challenges, Ontario’s public colleges remain committed to delivering high-quality programs strongly aligned with local employer needs. We are committed to working constructively with both the federal and provincial governments.