International students in need of more financial support, advocates say

by | Oct 29, 2019 | Campus News, News

Emily Wilson, News Reporter

International students at Humber College said their tuition fees are unfair and come on top of other costs of pursuing an education in Canada.

Srishti Bhardwaj, a first-year Systems Navigation and Health Care student from India, said the fees can be overwhelming. There are also health checks back home for visas, application fees, and for those who come from warmer parts of the world, the need to buy winter clothes.

“Everything adds up,” she said. “Everything has a fee.”

Bhardwaj, 24, said she and her family took out two loans in India, one with a 14.5 per cent interest rate, to pay for school abroad.

International students can only work 20 hours a week, which can limit their ability to cover the high costs of tuition, housing and food. (Emily Wilson)

“Everyone has different financial backgrounds,” she said.

Felipe Nagata, chair of the Canadian Federation of Students in Ontario, said international tuition increases were deregulated by the government and institutions set the fees each year.

“The province can only raise domestic tuition three to five per cent while international tuition doesn’t have a cap,” he said.

There are many more fees included in international tuition to make them shockingly high, ones set by the government for the school to collect.

Andrew Ness, Dean of International, said the Ontario government provides grants to post-secondary schools for each domestic student but does not provide grants for international students.

An $875 tax is also charged to colleges and universities for every international student attending, Ness said.

Despite the high costs, there is no official financial aid for international students, especially in diploma programs. He said there are plans for students in emergency situations, but the International Centre’s job is mostly to ensure students never get into one.

“We have trained immigration consultants for counselling and advice,” Ness said.

Banking institutions across Canada use Guaranteed Investment Certificates (GICs) to help provide supplemental income for some students throughout the year, according to Canada’s government website.

Bhardwaj said she put more than $10,000 she had saved into a GIC account and receives a portion of it monthly. She said the GIC program is designed as an allowance to ensure international students do not run out of money.

She sees it as compensation for the limit on the number of hours international students are permitted to work. A maximum of 20 hours is allowed, which Bhardwaj said is too little.

“We need more, a lot more,” she said. “Twenty hours at minimum wage isn’t enough.”

Nagata, a former international student from Brazil, said international students cannot rely on a source of income due to the red tape of the limit, especially in this economy.

International students also pay into a private health insurance program that is supposed to be an equivalency to OHIP, but it does have its limits.

Lana Yegay, a third-year Graphic Design student, said she wished health coverage was better.

The 19-year-old Kazakhstan native needed a root canal last year but the school wouldn’t cover it. “They sent me to a doctor downtown,” she said and had to pay the cost out of her pocket.

Bhardwaj said there is a lot of unfairness in the fees international students pay.

“I get it, everyone needs money, but then students are getting affected. They’re the ones actually paying out of their pockets. Education should be a priority,” she said.