Canadian universities could lose up to $ 3.4 billion this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly due to the situation of international students, according to projections made by Statistics Canada.
In a document released this week, the federal agency attempted to estimate the losses that universities will suffer for the 2020-2021 school year.
Statistics Canada points out that tuition fees occupy an increasing proportion in university budgets. In 2013-2014, tuition fees represented 24.7% of the budget, while in 2018-2019, it was 29.4%.
According to the organization, this is due to the growing proportion of international students, who pay higher tuition fees, almost five times as much as Canadians. In 2017-18, they alone paid about 40% of all tuition fees.
Thus, according to Statistics Canada projections, universities could lose $ 377 million to $ 3.4 billion, or 0.8% to 7.5% of their revenues.
For its various scenarios, Statistics Canada relied on study permits from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, which are linked to the number of international students in the country.
In 2020, the issuance of permits decreased by 58% and around 13% of those already issued were no longer valid as of September.
Statistics Canada has also taken into account the possible variation in enrollment among Canadian students. According to the Labor Force Survey, 20% of young people aged 17 to 24 who were in school in March and planning to continue their education ultimately said they would not return.
The Canadian Press has contacted several Quebec universities to ask them what impact the pandemic will have on their coffers.
Those who answered provided a more or less precise picture of the situation.
At McGill, we were delighted that the number of registrations (39,387) remained roughly the same as in 2019.
“We are monitoring the situation closely and adapting our learning activities to create a safe and welcoming experience on our campuses for the approximately 60% of our students who are currently in Montreal, while respecting the protocols stringent security, ”spokeswoman Katherine Gombay said in an email.
For its part, the University of Quebec at Montreal (UQAM) expects “significant” financial losses, mainly due to activities in the periphery, including ancillary services and continuing education.
“We must also consider the additional costs associated with this pandemic, particularly with regard to information technology and the additional costs associated with construction work,” said spokesperson Jenny Desrochers.
UQAM also predicts a drop in enrollments by international students, linked to travel restrictions.
For its part, the Université de Sherbrooke says it is still too early to discuss possible financial losses.
However, the university expects a decline in international students. “However, there are means implemented to adequately welcome and supervise international students registered at a distance. Several choices have been made to ensure their success, for example adjusting schedules, creating separate groups, adapting teaching methods, “wrote in an email Isabelle Huard, media relations advisor at the university.
Universities are adapting
Wendy Therrien, Director of External Relations and Research at Universities Canada – which represents Canadian universities – believes it is still too early to assess whether the pandemic will have an impact on the budget or on enrollment.
“What I can tell you is that the CEP (Canada Emergency Benefit) which was announced by the federal government has helped a lot of students and their families, [qui peuvent ainsi] have the means and the confidence to go back to college in September, ”she said in an interview.
According to Ms. Therrien, Canadian universities have adapted to travel restrictions by allowing international students to take their courses online. “It helps us retain these students and not lose them in other markets,” she explained.
More foreign students soon
As of October 20, the Government of Canada will also allow universities to welcome more international students.
International students studying in Canada will be able to come to the country if their university has an intervention plan approved by the provinces and territories.
“Like all travelers coming to Canada, international students and accompanying family members will be subject to all public health measures, including the mandatory 14-day quarantine period upon arrival in Canada,” said are we on the federal government website.