On Factors Mitigating the Profitability of International Students

One prof’s response to my tedious number-crunching suggests one other reason why a simple reliance on international student tuition might be insufficient to compensate for an underfunded system:

I am in no position to debate the numbers, but I do want to make a comment about foreign students.

Since 1967, I have spent part of my life in and around [foreign] institutions [that] rely far more heavily on foreign students than Ontario Colleges do now or to the extent that Mr. McGuinty has proposed.

From my experience teaching in both environments over long periods of time, I can say flatly that Ontario colleges are unprepared. Sure, foreign students can be exploited (mostly willingly) by being charged high fees. What’s more, they can add a wonderful dimension to any educational institution. They are, however, not fools; if they do not know now, they will soon learn the callous cash motive for their “welcome.”

The current government initiative is transparently all about a cash grab. The resources needed to make the transition to the Canadian environment smoother, to explore the ways in which Canadian institutions could benefit from other perspectives, and the quality of the education we could provide are not being seriously addressed (and, I suspect, not within the capacity of the government and most college managers to contemplate).

Yes, bringing in thousands of foreign students might improve the “bottom line” in the short run, but unless this initiative is thought fully through, then it may be little more than a fraud against the international students, and one that may come back to bite us all.

This is similar to my position: I have few moral objections to an increase in international students, but I don’t see them as any kind of panacea to an underfunded system, any more than obtaining another line of credit will help somebody to get out of debt.  The profit for the school of an international student is limited (since the school receives no governmental funding for them), yet the schools may be held responsible for additional costs.

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