University of Windsor student Archie Sharma knows that friends back home in India are "devastated" over the Canadian government's decision to limit the number of student permits over the next two years.
On Monday, Canada's immigration minister Marc Miller said that the government will cap the number of student permits into 2025 with a goal of targeting institutional "bad actors." This comes amid concern about the impact growing numbers of international students are having on the housing market.
The government says it will approve approximately 360,000 undergraduate study permits for this year — a 35 per cent reduction from 2023.
"Back in our home country, there are many friends who are just waiting for their visas and they're just planning to come to Canada, but this news has just shaken them up," said Sharma, a masters of medical biotechnology student.
Other international students at the University of Windsor told CBC News that they also know people back home who are worried about what this means for their future study plans.
"A lot of students they look forward to coming to a different country, especially in Canada, where there are a lot of opportunities to come abroad to study," said Shadman Sakib.
He added that while housing is hard to find, it's not "fair" that international students are being seen as creating part of the problem.
But student Sm Sakib, a masters of management, international accounting and finance student, thinks the latest announcement is a good decision.
"For the last couple of years, students are coming at a very great number, but we see there is a huge housing crisis, that is why students has to pay more for their houses. So if you accumulate all the expenses, it is very difficult for the students," he said, adding that he thinks the cap should last for three to four years.
The University of Windsor told CBC News it wouldn't be commenting on the recent announcement. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC)
Some provinces to see 50% permit reductions
Each province and territory will be allotted a portion of the total, distributed according to population. The federal government says this will result in "much more significant decreases in provinces where the international student population has seen the most unsustainable growth."
In some provinces, Miller said, the total reduction in permits will be approximately 50 per cent.
Provinces and territories will be left to decide how permits are distributed among universities and colleges in their jurisdictions. The cap will be in place for two years; the number of permits to be issued in 2025 will be reassessed at the end of this year.
Those pursuing master's and doctoral degrees, and elementary/secondary education are not included in the cap, the government says. Study permit renewals and current study permit holders will also not be affected.
Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marc Miller speaks to the media during the federal cabinet retreat in Montreal, Monday, Jan. 22, 2024. (Christinne Muschi/The Canadian Press)
Miller also announced changes to the post-graduation work permit program.
Starting in September, international students who begin a program that's part of a curriculum licensing arrangement (one where a private college has been licensed to deliver the curriculum of an associated public college) will no longer be eligible for a post-graduation work permit.
The University of Windsor and St. Clair College declined to comment about the impact of this to CBC News Monday, saying they would like to have more information from upper levels of government.
Shaun Dass, a director at the South Asian Centre of Windsor, said "it's about time that we started vetting the entire program." The centre offers resources to help international students.
"If we take a step back, like what we're doing, I think that we're going to come up with a better program, better solution, more supports for these students," he said.
Over the next two years, Dass hopes that post-secondary institutions take the opportunity to consult international students and find out how they can be better supported. He also says schools should partner more closely with community organizations, like the South Asian Centre of Windsor, which have created programming to help international students.
"I think international student departments need to be beefed up, they need to partner with organizations that understand the experiences of immigrants, of international students," he said.
Schools have been increasingly accepting international students
In November 2022, the Auditor General of Ontario (AGO) released a financial review of four universities across the province, one of them being the University of Windsor.
The review found that the school's finances heavily relied on international students from India and China.
Shaun Dass is a director at the South Asian Centre of Windsor. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC)
Over a five-year period, according to the review, the University of Windsor's international enrolment increased by 33 per cent, with its proportion of revenue from international students more than doubling from 9.6 per cent to 20.9 per cent.
A 2022-2023 St. Clair College annual report said that its goal is to increase international enrolment.
The report says that since the winter 2018 semester, St. Clair College has had "significant international enrolment growth" at their campuses — going from 2,315 to 4,462 full-time students.
It continued to say that although enrolment has grown from 2018 to 2020, the college also saw a slight decline over the last two years — specifically a 1.21 per cent decrease from winter 2022 to winter 2023 enrolment.
Since the winter semester of 2019, the college says it has averaged 4,601 enrolled international students at its Windsor, downtown and Chatham campuses — that's an average increase of 98.7 per cent over 2018.
It's unclear how many of those students are specifically undergraduate students.