When Maria Olaifa was accepted into Fanshawe College’s marketing management program for May she was thrilled, eager to pack her belongings and leave her native Philippines.
But her plans to study at the London, Ont., college were abruptly halted due to travel restrictions imposed in the wake of the global COVID-19 health crisis.
“My country has closed its borders and flights are not available,” said Olaifa, 32, of Cebu City. Even if she could come, she’s not sure she would.
“I am afraid to be in a country where I do not know anyone and have nowhere to go during this pandemic,” she told the Star. “I don’t think it would be mentally healthy for me to go to a place for the first time, alone with all these problems.”
Olaifa is among a growing number of international students who intended to come to Canada in the next few months, but are now deferring study plans.
Border closures, flight cancellations, shuttered language testing sites and closed visa offices are posing major challenges. It’s too early to say how many students have deferred or outright cancelled study plans — even those with valid study permits. But a significant decrease in the number of international students at Canadian colleges and universities — a segment that’s been booming in recent years — would deliver a financial blow to schools that rely on their hefty tuition fees as a revenue source.
International students contribute $6 billion a year just in tuition at Canadian universities, but their economic impact extends beyond the campus. Government figures show that in 2018 they pumped $21.6 billion into schools, communities and the broader Canadian economy. As of Dec. 31, 2019, there were 498,735 post-secondary international students in Canada, a 14.5 per cent increase from 2018.
As the health crisis drags on, colleges and universities are asking the federal government to allow international students to do online courses while in their own country.
The federal policy typically stipulates that international students must attend most classes in-person to receive a Post-Graduation Work Permit — but there have been recent updates. Those currently in Canada can now do e-learning and have it count towards their work permit, since in-person classes are temporarily cancelled. And on Tuesday the federal government said international students with a study permit for a program starting in May or June, but who can’t get here because of travel restrictions, can complete up to 50 per cent of it online without it impacting eligibility for a work permit.
Kevin Lemkay, press secretary for Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino, told the Star officials will continue assessing the impact of the current situation and make further adjustments as needed.
Source link: https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2020/04/08/billions-of-dollars-are-at-risk-colleges-and-universities-scramble-to-protect-international-student-sector-amid-covid-19-pandemic.html