Concerns persist regarding the continued decline in international student enrollment

Due to the impact of the COVID crisis, Canada experienced a significant decline of 20% to 30% in international student enrollment from the 2019-20 academic year to the 2020-21 academic year.

The absence of 65,000 international students is already having an impact on local economies, university budgets, and STEM research fields.

University and college administrators, along with non-governmental organizations involved in attracting international students to Canada, are expressing concerns about the impact of travel restrictions introduced in February 2021.

These restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 are expected to further reduce the number of international students arriving in Canada, both during the current spring semester and for the upcoming September intake.

Since February, international flights to Canada have been limited to landing in Montreal, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver. Additionally, travelers arriving in Canada have been mandated to undergo quarantine at designated hotels.

Denise Amyot, president and CEO of Colleges and Institutes Canada, stated that the new regulations have had a disproportionate impact on colleges and universities in smaller cities, rural areas, and remote regions. This is due to the requirement for students to complete their entire quarantine period at government-approved hotels.

Denise Amyot points out that Atlantic Canada does not have a designated airport. As a result, international students heading to universities in this region are required to undergo hotel quarantine at one of the major hubs, which incurs a cost of CA$2,000 (US$1,600).

Denise Amyot emphasizes the significant cost burden imposed on international students due to the mandatory hotel quarantine. Furthermore, even after reaching their destination universities in Halifax, Nova Scotia, or Quebec City, students will have to undergo another round of quarantine. These factors have resulted in a considerable number of deferrals for the spring, summer, and upcoming fall intakes.

For international students whose universities are located near one of the designated airports, the quarantine period in government-approved hotels lasts for a minimum of three days, typically the time it takes to obtain COVID-19 test results.

If the test results are negative and the student’s school has an approved plan by the local health authority and the federal government, the student can then be transferred to a quarantine center on their school’s campus.

To alleviate the financial burden on international students, the University of Waterloo in southwestern Ontario covers the expenses from the fourth to the fourteenth day of quarantine for students who choose to quarantine on its main campus in Kitchener, Ontario.

The University of Waterloo’s program, which covers transportation, accommodation, and food expenses, amounts to approximately CA$2,000. This initiative has contributed to the university’s stable year-over-year enrollment of international students, with 8,861 students in 2020-21, similar to the previous year’s count of 8,897.

To address concerns about the mental health of international students, the University of Calgary has introduced a Zoom-based buddy system as part of its quarantine program. These buddies, who are not professional counselors, serve as peer volunteers, providing companionship and being a friendly presence for the students.

Dean and Vice-Provost Dr. Robin Yates explains that the buddy system aims to offer support and keep students company during their quarantine period.

In addition to offering quarantine accommodations in its dormitories, the University of Toronto has set up a CA$9.1 million (US$7.2 million) fund to assist international students in covering the costs of their hotel quarantine period. This financial support aims to alleviate the financial burden for students during their mandatory quarantine.



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By Ryan

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