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Immigration Minister Marc Miller weighs in on local international student enrollment


Canada’s Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship made a stop in Kitchener on Wednesday as part of Citizenship Week.

In a sit-down interview with CTV News, Marc Miller also addressed international student enrollment in post secondary schools.

"It's sort of gotten out of control in the last couple of years,” Miller said.

Conestoga College's international student enrollment grew 1,579 per cent in the past seven years. Miller said a lack of funding for post-secondary schools has been a reason for these increases.

"There’s been significant underfunding for a really long time that provinces have just not put the money into the educational system that they really should in a country like Canada and institutions have adapted like Conestoga," Miller said.

Conestoga College has said these students are catalysts for innovation and entrepreneurship in the community.

“Conestoga’s increased enrolment over the last five years was supported by the federal government,” the college said in an email. “Last year, the college invested over $74 million in student supports and we have just purchased eight new student housing properties - an increase of student beds by 170 per cent. Our international allocation will have local impacts, including reduced employment opportunities for local residents."

Miller said there is a responsibility to provide the experience the students expect.

"The other side of things is that often these kids are left without the job that they got a diploma for. The feeling and sense that sometimes is that they've been tricked into coming to Canada, which is not what we want as part of an international student program that aims the best and the brightest," Miller said.

From 2022 to 2023, Conestoga College saw a 324 per cent increase in international students seeking asylum.

"Conestoga ranks in the top ten. So that, again, is an indicator, not that people aren't sometimes fleeing war and oppression, but they don't do that through a visa system that is intended to get students that have the solvency requirements to get here," Miller said.

Amidst a housing crisis, the mayors of Waterloo and Kitchener said they work with the college on finding housing options for their students. Adding, international students make up an important piece of the community and local jobs, but the lack of other government funding has made an impact.

"I do feel, for the universities and the college because they're not being funded right now to build residences for students. That's, I think, a big gap," said Waterloo Mayor Dorothy McCabe.

"I think what it really speaks to is the need for all three orders of government, the federal government, provinces and territories and municipalities to actually work together around issues of immigration," Kitchener Mayor Berry Vrbanovic said.

Some have said the influx of immigrants is driving up housing prices across the province. Miller said the new temporary cap for approved study permits should help.

“But when the volumes get out of control, the federal government has to use its role and so does the provincial government. I think what we're seeing here even in the Kitchener-Waterloo region is something where we've seen the impact on housing, on affordability, and we have to make sure that that is done in the right way when institutions have more students than some provinces. I think that's a warning signal."

Miller said in this time of reflection, the country needs to relook at the system and rein it back in.

CTV News also reached out the Ministry of Colleges and Universities for comment. They provided the following statement: "Through Bill 185, Ontario is proposing a series of measures to cut red tape and help build more new student housing spaces. Including exempting publicly-assisted universities from the Planning Act in order to accelerate the building of new student housing units. This proposal could save years in approvals, avoid planning application fees and remove more barriers to building higher density student residences. This will help to address student housing needs by reducing regulatory hurdles and establishing clear guidelines to increase the availability of safe and affordable housing options for postsecondary students in Ontario. Postsecondary institutions will also be required to publish their student housing policies and student housing will now count towards municipalities’ Building Faster Fund (BFF) housing targets." Top Stories

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