The Canadian government talks a lot about how much they value international students and international experiences.

“International education is an essential pillar of Canada’s long-term competitiveness,” says Minister of International Trade Diversification James Carr on the Government of Canada website. “Canadians who study abroad gain exposure to new cultures and ideas, stimulating innovation and developing important cross-cultural competencies. Students from abroad who study in Canada bring those same benefits to our shores. If they choose to immigrate to Canada, they contribute to Canada’s economic success. Those who choose to return to their countries become life-long ambassadors for Canada and for Canadian values.”

“In 2018, more than 721,000 international students studied in Canada, sparking new ideas, strengthening innovation and building people-to-people ties that are crucial to international trade and the global economy,” Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Ahmed Hussen added.

“In 2018, international students in Canada contributed an estimated $21.6 billion to Canada’s GDP and supported almost 170,000 jobs for Canada’s middle class,” Carr also stated on the Government of Canada website.

Yet, under Canada’s International Education Strategy, $150 million dollars over five years from the federal government will be put into opportunities for Canadian students to study abroad and to attract international students to Canada. This is less than one percent of the financial contribution of international students in a single year.

A large portion of where the money that international students contribute comes from tuition fees. At UBC and UBCO for an undergraduate degree as a domestic student, tuition, books and student fees comes to around $9000 CDN a year depending on the program. For an international student, an undergraduate degree can cost between $38,000 and $53,000 CDN a year. And while tuition for domestic students has been rising an average of two percent a year, it is rising two to five percent for international students.

It appears as though the Canadian government, for all their talk, do not really care about creating an environment to further the learning opportunities of international students. No young person I know is able to afford such outrageous tuition rates as what is expected of international students to pay. This means that many international students will need of support from their families. And even if students are getting support from their families, that is still a large sum of money required for a four-year degree. This is also not taking into account the cost of living.

An average family cannot afford this.

As such, it is only international students that come wealthy families that would be able to afford what UBCO charges for a degree. And this is concerning, not because of who is coming, but of who is not coming.

Charging international students such high rates of tuition eliminates a huge demographic of people from around the world that would contribute to the diversity of ideas and innovations at our institutions.

Yes, students can apply for scholarships, grants and student loans, but the cost is still creating a barrier that forces students to apply for scholarships, grants and student loans. And these avenues still do not guarantee that a student would acquire enough funds. Canadian universities are losing out on attracting many young people with drive and potential simply because pursuing a secondary education in Canada is unaffordable.

And as the Government website states, “Incoming students, along with Canadians studying abroad, spark new ideas and increase Canada’s innovation capacity. Perhaps most importantly, international education fuels the people-to-people ties crucial to international trade in an increasingly interconnected global economy.”

If the federal government truly believes this then they must make education for international students more affordable and do away with ridiculous tuition rates.