Are Canadian Taxpayers Actually Subsidizing International Students?


Canadian educators expect large numbers of foreign students to enroll in Canadian schools in the next few weeks. In 2009, about 180,000 international students attended Canadian secondary and post-secondary schools.  However, the educators have been expressing alarm at the job actions of Canadian Foreign Affairs workers who are causing delays in issuing visas to international students coming to Canada.

Here are a few points which indicate that Canadian educators’ claims (that international students are a net benefit to Canada) are untrue. Canadian educators (both secondary and post-secondary, but especially the latter ) should begin pondering these points immediately :

(1) The most important question that all Canadian educators have to answer is this : Do the higher tuition fees, which international students pay, actually cover the  costs of their education in Canada?  In the U.S., eminent Harvard University economist George Borjas has stated that no student, foreign or local, pays enough in tuition to cover the actual cost of (his/her) education. All college and university students are subsidized by taxpayers.

David North, former Assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Labor, and an immigration policy researcher for several decades, says much the same. He refutes the claims made by international student advocacy groups like the U.S. Institute of International Education ( IIE ).  In “Who Pays? Foreign Students Do Not Help with Balance of Payments” , David North says : “It has been argued for years that foreign students contribute to America’s balance of payments because of money they bring with them from abroad. But the calculations ignore the massive, partially hidden subsidies to higher education coming from American tax dollars and endowment funds. The calculations supporting the balance-of-payments argument use highly questionable data-collection techniques. And other stronger, studies show that foreign students make heavy use of U.S. funds to support their graduate educations.”

(2) Contrary to what the foreign student industry says, it is unclear whether foreign student programs are profitable for Canada.  Bonnie Patterson, a past President of the Council of Ontario Universities and former head of Trent University, has stated that foreign student tuition fees “are not money-makers”.  Yet, a 2007 Dalhousie University survey of Canadian universities found that 62% of universities said that generating revenue was a major reason for wanting to have more foreign students. Have Canadian university presidents examined what Ms. Patterson and their U.S. counterparts have  said?

(3) Many Canadian students are experiencing serious difficulties. Many are facing great competition (from unnecessary immigrants) to get into post-secondary programs. Many who are in post-secondary institutions are accumulating a large amount of debt. Because of the ongoing  recession and competition from unnecessary immigrants and unnecessary Temporary Foreign Workers, many students could not find summer jobs this year and many who have graduated are finding severe problems finding permanent jobs. One in four is staying at home well into their late-20’s or early 30’s, not for cultural reasons, but because they are poor and the prospects of being economically independent are slim. If anyone in Canada should be aware of these problems, it should be university presidents. These people live off Canadian taxpayers, yet their actions seem arrogant and contemptuous of Canadian students.

(4) The foreign student program has been corrupted. Most Canadians would approve of Canada helping a limited number of poor foreign students so that those poor students can return to their countries and help their fellow citizens. However, as in the UK, visa colleges here exist as fronts for illegal immigration. Wealthy students who could never have qualified for entry to educational institutions in their home countries are accepted in many U.S. universities because they can pay the tuition. Others who would never have been able to compete with their countrymen (because of the enormous number of other students pursuing the same goal there) come here because the competition is dramatically less in Canada. In addition, many Canadian universities consider the foreign student program as an immigration program. They ignore the results of well-respected research, and boast that these foreign students will help Canada to solve aging society problems, and provide Canada with revenue to balance its books.

Citizenship and Immigration contributes to the corruption by encouraging foreign students to apply for immigration status. The problem with doing this is that once foreign students receive a Permanent Resident card, they no longer have to pay higher tuition. Any benefit the universities or colleges might have received is cancelled. Australia suffered from another serious problem. Foreign students there took  advantage of a loophole. Tens of thousands of foreign students used the foreign student program to become immigrants. These students enrolled in courses such as hair-dressing and cooking to satisfy immigration entry requirements. However, Australia did not need thousands of extra hair-dressers or cooks. Similar corruption is happening here.

(5) Statements made in 2010 by David Johnston (former head of Waterloo University and now Canada’s Governor General), UBC’s Past President Toope (a notorious promoter of “Diversity” but whose campus became a near mono-culture under his term) and other university administrators illogically assume that the intangible benefits of contacts with students from other countries (classroom dynamics, business ties, etc.) are large and should outweigh many factors. Most people will agree that social contacts that students make at any post-secondary institution have value. But are contacts with non-Canadians superior in any way? If university presidents want to make that claim, they must show the proof. Let them reveal it in a university hall meeting filled with their debt-burdened and unemployed graduates. Let’s close the doors and see what happens.


Much of the material for this bulletin came from an IWC bulletin of late 2010.


1. The American study, “Who Pays? Foreign Students Do Not Help with Balance of Payments” was prepared by David North for the Center for Immigration Studies in Washington, D.C. It is available at

2. Dr. George Borjas’  “An Evaluation Of The Foreign Student Program” was published in July 2002 and is available at

3. “Watch Your Mouth-You Are In A Canadian University Now” is a Weekly Bulletin on the IWC web site. It is relevant to the material in this bulletin. It is available at