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Miller threatens to close 'questionable schools' if provinces don't move

Photo: Sean Kilpatrick The Canadian Press Marc Miller said Tuesday that there are problems in the university system, but that some of the worst offenders are private establishments.

Nojoud Al Mallees – The Canadian Press in Ottawa

February 28, 2024

  • Canada

The federal Minister of Immigration assures that Ottawa is ready to intervene and close questionable schools that abuse the program for foreign students if the provinces do not take their responsibilities.

Marc Miller said Tuesday that there are problems in the university system, but that some of the worst offenders are private institutions – and they need to go.

“There is a responsibility to assume,” Mr. Miller said on Parliament Hill, before the weekly cabinet meeting. I just think some of the really bad actors are in the private sphere and they need to be shut down.”

The minister maintained that the provinces are responsible for solving problems in the post-secondary education sector.

But he added that if the provinces don't do it, Ottawa will – although there are “jurisdictional issues” about what the federal government can do in post-secondary education.

To go further

  • With the decline in Indian students, private colleges are slowly dying
  • Ottawa will cap the number of foreign students for two years
  • International students: Quebec tightens the screws on private colleges (2020)
  • In Ontario, the cap on study permits raises fears for the vitality of French

A sharp increase in international student enrollment in recent years has led to increased scrutiny of the federal international student program. The Liberal government was forced to cap the number of new study visas for the next two years.

More than 900,000 international students received visas to study in Canada last year; that's more than three times as many as 10 years ago.

Critics have questioned the dramatic increase in international student enrollment at “questionable” postsecondary institutions. Some argue that this program may have become a back door to permanent residency in Canada.

Minister Miller presented as a solution his government's plan to recognize post-secondary institutions that would apply higher standards of services, supports and results for international students.

“The recognized establishments model that we launched in the fall is still very relevant to this discussion, because we will be able to separate the wheat from the chaff,” he said Tuesday. And perhaps even — if the provinces do not assume their responsibilities — to close these establishments if they do not do a good enough job. »

Student asylum requests

Following Minister Miller's comments, the president and CEO of the National Association of Career Colleges (ANCC) said his organization supports the federal government's efforts to curb the rise in international student numbers, but he pushed back against criticism of private colleges.

“The statistics [from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada] are clear: regulated career colleges train the vast majority of Canadian learners and ANCC member institutions represent less than 5% of all study permits in 2023. We are not the problem,” said Michael Sangster in a press release.

In addition to private colleges, Mr. Miller also pointed to schools that have seen an increase in asylum applications from international students.

Asylum applications from international students at Seneca College increased from 300 to nearly 700, between 2022 and 2023. At Conestoga College, applications increased from 106 to 450 during the same period.

Mr. Miller called the increases “alarming” and “totally unacceptable.”

Discontent of Ontario

The Ontario government has expressed its displeasure with the federal government's decision to cap international student enrollment.

On Friday, Premier Doug Ford said Ottawa had blindsided the province with this decision, which he compared to “a sledgehammer against the entire system.”

Minister Marc Miller rebuffed Ontario's criticism Tuesday, saying it was “hogwash” and that he had warned the province it needed to control the influx of international students.

The Ontario government announced Monday it will provide an additional $1.3 billion over three years to post-secondary institutions increasingly struggling financially due to low provincial funding, fee freezes tuition and, now, the cap on international student registrations.

Colleges and universities said this was nowhere near enough to support the sector.

A panel of experts commissioned by the government and Ontario's auditor general noted that low levels of provincial support over several years, combined with a reduction and freeze in tuition fees in 2019, largely explain why Institutions are increasingly turning to international student tuition fees – which are much higher than what domestic students pay – to stay afloat.

According to a report released last year by Higher Education Strategy Associates, Ontario ranks last in all interprovincial comparisons of post-secondary education funding.

International students now give more money to Ontario institutions than the government, report says.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116