Many unknowns remain in how new student visa cap will impact TRU, Kamloops

Visa cap will impact TRU

The president of Thompson Rivers University says new limits announced Monday on the number of international student visas issued by Ottawa will likely impact the university's campus make-up and bottom line, though a lot of questions remain unanswered.

Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marc Miller announced Monday a two-year temporary cap on new student visas, which would cap the number of visas issued in Canada to 364,000 this year, marking a 35 per cent decrease from the nearly 560,000 permits issued last year.

Individual provincial and territorial caps have been established based on population which the federal government says will result in more significant decreases in provinces where the international student populations has seen "the most unsustainable growth."

The number for the following year will be determined following an assessment of the situation later this year, Miller said.

TRU President Brett Fairbairn said Monday during a TRU senate meeting that the changes will bring a lot of unknowns.

“We don't know the impact and we'll have to find out more through further conversation with both the provincial government and the federal government,” he said.

“They're certainly aware the changes announced today will have an impact on universities. They will likely affect the composition of our campus community, they'll affect the demand for services and courses and they will also affect our finances.”

In a report to senate, Fairbairn said there are around just over 4,600 international students on-campus for the winter 2024 semester — nearly half the on-campus student population. The report states both on-campus and open learning international student enrolment indicate the university is expected to end the year with a 16 per cent increase over last year.

Fall 2024 applications and admissions are also down 34 per cent and 24 per cent respectively. The report states the decrease is due to efforts to manage the Kamloops campus' international headcount to around 4,500 students.

More than 900,000 international students had visas to study in Canada last year. Visas are issued for a three-year period.

The cap will only apply to post-secondary undergraduate students and will not affect visas for master’s programs, doctoral degrees or elementary and high school students. Study permit renewals will also not be impacted.

“It has been announced that graduate students will not be directly affected by the changes in study permits. Also, that current students who are here and already have visas will not be affected by the changes in study permits,” Fairbairn said.

“The necessity for these measures has been established based on students arriving in Canada without proper support for their success and the actions of some of what the minister has referred to as “bad actors.” TRU is not in that category."

The university’s student union said it is also waiting to see what potential impacts the changes will have on TRU.

“Likely this will impact our institutions — we will work to try and figure out how it might impact students particularly,” Sierra Rae, TRUSU university affairs co-ordinator, said at the union’s annual general meeting Monday night.

“But as the news just came out today, the university affairs committee has not had a chance to respond or even think about that at this point.”

In addition to the visa cap, students in schools that follow a private-public model will be bared from accessing postgraduate work permits as of Sept. 1.

Open work permits will also only be available for the spouse of students enrolled in masters and doctoral programs. Professional programs such as medicine and law will also have access to permits.

Miller said the temporary cap is meant to address mounting affordability and housing pressures, saying immigration has played a role in both.

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.

The student union said there has been a "mixed response" to changes to cost of living requirements for international students.

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’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.

— with files from The Canadian Press

More Kamloops News