Last week, TRU Students’ Union representatives sparked a debate about international student fees. This debate is due and welcome, but has highlighted the need to dispel common myths about international students and the fees they pay.
Myth 1: International students don’t pay taxes.
False. While in Canada, international students pay the same taxes as any student, from sales tax to income tax. Each year they inject $88 million into the Kamloops economy, growing the tax base. Further, international students arrive having been educated to the secondary level at no cost to our government. Upon graduating, 51 to 57 per cent will apply for permanent residence, fill labour shortages, and pay further taxes to support the public services we all rely on. That’s a great deal for Canadian taxpayers.
Myth 2: International students take domestic student seats.
False. Due to shrinking demographics and rising unaffordability, TRU has not met its domestic enrolment targets in any of the last eight years. International students fill spaces that would otherwise be empty and in doing so, create the volume of students required to make additional courses viable in terms of classroom space, professor workloads, and other resources.
Myth 3: International students will always pay a “market rate” to attend TRU.
False. The Students’ Union warned TRU two years ago that it would soon reach an international recruitment limit due to rising fees and increased competition. After three years of nine per cent average growth, international enrolment growth shrunk to one per cent this year. The latest $2,000 fee hike will only drive more international students away.
Myth 4: The Students’ Union is lobbying TRU to reduce international student fees to the domestic rate.
Not quite. Our campaign addresses a fundamental problem of how international student fees are charged. Currently, international students pay a flat rate of $7,900 per semester. As a result, an international student who takes three courses each semester pays the same as one that takes five. We call on TRU to charge international student fees “per credit” instead. If we can’t agree on the rate international students pay, surely we can agree that they should pay only for the courses they enrol in.
There is little doubt that international students play an important role in TRU’s ongoing development but the debate about that role must be based in fact. One crucial fact is that if we lean too heavily on international students without due consideration, we risk losing more benefits than we gain.
President, TRU Students’ Union