Financial support for foreign students

New scholarship fund for foreign students to cost $30 million over 4 years

Foreign students are being wooed to Ontario. An interesting article in the November 6, 2010 Toronto Sun.

The first recipients of Premier Dalton McGuinty’s new scholarship fund for international students will start school about a month before the next provincial election in the fall of 2011.

The bulk of the program’s cost — $30 million for the first four years — will be spent during the term of the next government.

PC Leader Tim Hudak, who’ll be leading the Conservatives against McGuinty’s Liberals into the next campaign, said he’ll keep fighting to have that money spent on Ontario students.

”The PCs have called for this $40,000 per year grant to foreign students to be cancelled and the funds put towards helping Ontario students access post secondary education instead,” Hudak said.

“Certainly this is a government that’s done a lot of backtracking and the PCs will continue to push to get Dalton McGuinty to back down from this latest bad idea.”

McGuinty announced the new Ontario Trillium Scholarship in Hong Kong this week as he wrapped up an official trip to China.

The international students will get $40,000 a year for four years for doctoral studies at a university in Ontario.

The plan is to start with 75 students next year, and then add an additional 75 a year to a maximum of 300 annual recipients.

When fully ramped up, the scholarship program will cost $12 million a year.

The proposal has drawn strong support from universities, but opposition MPPs at Queen’s Park have questioned the decision to go further into debt to help foreign students while many Ontarians continue to struggle through the lingering economic effects of the recession.

Ontario taxpayers will pay $20 million in the first four years, while universities pick up the remaining $10 million.

Hudak said it’s wrong to expect Ontarians to pick up the cost of the program plus interest payments on debt.

The McGuinty spring budget says the province won’t balance its books for eight years.

Training, Colleges and Universities Minister John Milloy said the scholarship program will allow provincial institutions to compete with the best universities in the world for the top minds.

Milloy said the amount put aside for the international scholarships is “small” compared to the government’s investment in financial support for Ontario students.

According to Statistics Canada, Ontario university undergraduates and graduate students face the highest tuition in the country.

Graduate students entering the 2010/11 academic year were walloped with a 10.6% increase in tuition, bringing the average yearly cost to $6,917.

Undergraduates saw their tuition leap by 5.4% to $6,307.

But international students often pay three times as much for the same education as Ontarians.

The Canadian Federation of Students issued a report in the fall of 2009 criticizing the high tuition faced by foreign students.

The federation accused governments of cutting back funding to universities, and then exploiting foreign students to help make up the difference.

According to the U of T website, undergraduate tuition for international students at the institution ranged from $20,000 to $26,000 in 2010-11.

However, a math undergraduate degree at one Australian university costs $29,862 (Canadian) a year and other programs can be considerably more expensive, according to information posted on line by the university.

According to the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA), 58% of Canadian university grads finish school with debt averaging around $26,680, and over half of college grads finish with debt somewhere between $5,000 and $30,000.

CASA director Zachary Dayler says not enough is being done for students already here.

“If we’re going to be targeting and recruiting international students, we also need to be targeting and better supporting our own students and making sure they can access post-secondary education,” he said.

While foreign students do bring cultural and economic benefits to the province, McGuinty should keep a closer eye on the problems homegrown students face, says Nora Loreto of the Canadian Federation of Students.

“(Domestic students) have to pay higher fees than ever before , to borrow more money than ever before, and there is no question that the government has to address the problem that students are facing.”

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