'Mixed response' to new international student requirements, according to student union

Students 'mixed' on changes

As new cost-of-living requirements for International students studying in Canada come into effect, the reaction from some at Thompson Rivers University has been “mixed,” according to the students' union.

The new requirements mean study permit applicants will need to show proof they have $20,635, up from $10,000. The new requirements came into effect on Jan. 1.

TRU welcomed the federal regulation changes, saying the new requirements would ensure international students are financially prepared to study in Canada.

Anika Jovner, TRUSU international students’ representative, said there’s been “a mixed response” from some students.

“Increasing the amount to $20,000 was to address the rising cost of living, but if it becomes too prohibitive it could probably prevent potential students from coming to Canada to study,” Jovner said.

As it stands, the university isn’t expecting much of an impact to its enrolment, according to associate director of international student services, Reuben Onyango.

“The reason I say that is we've always told students what the real cost of living is,” Onyango said.

“In the conditional letter of acceptance, we tell the students, ‘This is what it's going to cost you for your living expenses for a year,’ and typically it was tied to what a student living in residence would pay.”

For example, Onyango said, a typical student in the bachelor of business administration is told they would need $19,000 for living expenses.

As spending by students can vary considerably, Onyango said the amount recommended is meant to give students a general idea of living expenses in Kamloops.

Baihua Chadwick, TRU’s vice-president international, told Castanet Kamloops in December the majority of international students seek off-campus housing despite below-market and on-campus alternatives.

Onyango said he believes the new requirements help to protect students by preparing them for financial realities and said he felt like the requirement could be even higher.

“We’re not feeling like students are being misled,” Onyango said.

"To be honest, it could be more, but I think now students are in a better position to come and actually enjoy being a student."

Jovner agreed, saying while the new requirement is more representative of the cost of studying at TRU for an international student, it “isn’t anywhere near” the reality of what they will end up paying.

She said while there isn’t anything that can be done about the federal government making decisions, the university can support international students when they arrive on campus.

“The students' union has called on TRU to cap international student tuition fee increases at two per cent, reduce the international students tuition deposit amount and also improve needs based funding or financial aid,” said Jovner.

While domestic tuition is capped by the provincial government at a two per cent increase each year, international tuition increases are unregulated.

TRU’s board of governors is currently considering a five per cent international tuition increase. The tuition increase would be part of a three-year-plan to set a guaranteed-fee model by 2026.

Jovner said she believed a guaranteed-fee model would be beneficial for students, saying it would provide more consistency year-over-year.

In a comparison to other B.C. universities, tuition for a full-time international student in the fall and winter 2023-24 semesters was cheaper at TRU than any other research university, with students paying $21,323 in tuition and fees, according to a presentation to the university's board of governors in December.

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