Declining international enrollment will take a financial toll on B.C. postsecondary institutions
There’s a line item in UBC’s 2020-21 budget that reveals one aspect of the pandemic’s impact.
Under “Student fees-International”, it shows $550.2 million in anticipated revenue without the global outbreak of COVID-19.
But due to the pandemic, this revenue is expected to fall to $473.5 million—a drop of more than $76 million.
And that doesn’t include the lost revenue from student housing, food services, parking, and events from having fewer international students being on campus.
UBC’s consolidated budget, pre-pandemic, forecast a $60-million surplus in 2020-21.
The recently approved consolidated budget, on the other hand, anticipates a record $225-million operating deficit.
Imagine the pandemic’s impact on all B.C. postsecondary institutions, which have relied increasingly in recent years on international tuition to balance the books.
A 2018 report by the B.C. Federation of Students pointed out that international tuition fees in B.C. were the second-highest in Canada for full-time study, averaging $23,331. It noted that four years of study at UBC would set an international student back $210,00, based on tuition fees, ancillary fees, and a cost of living adding up to $52,500 annually.
“International student tuition fees vary widely based on the type of institution,” the report states. “For Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) programs, popular among international students, international student tuition fees range from $14,000 to $37,000 at universities—the average university tuition fee is $20,230 with colleges charging an average of $13,122.20.”
According to federal government data, the number of new study permits for students headed to B.C. was down 27.5 percent for the first six months of 2020, compared to the first six months of 2019.
Nationally, the six-month figure fell 23.7 percent.
Vietnam bucks international trend
The Straight examined percentage changes for the 10 largest source countries in the first six months of 2019.
All but three showed declines in the first six months of 2020 compared to the same period a year ago.
The only exceptions were Vietnam (up 28.6 percent), Iran (up 2.6 percent), and Nigeria (up 1.4 percent).
The three countries with the most new study permits in 2019 all had double-digit declines in 2020: India (down 25.5 percent), China (down 35.5 percent), and South Korea (down 25.9 percent).
The fifth-largest source country for new study permits in the first six months of 2019, Brazil, experienced a 33.7 percent decline in the first six months of 2020. But the largest fall was the eighth-place country, Japan: its number declined by a whopping 46.5 percent.
The largest gainer, Vietnam, has only recorded 35 deaths from COVID-19, despite having a population of more than 95 million.
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Fraser International College, which supplies international students to Simon Fraser University, posted a video earlier this year on YouTube encouraging students from Vietnam to enroll.
In testimonials in Vietnamese, computing-science student Andrey Pham and business-administration student Hannah Mai lavished praise on the school, which enables students to transfer in their second year to SFU.
Earlier this month, new SFU president Joy Johnson told the Straight that her university is in “pretty good shape with international student enrollment right now”.
That likely sets it apart from many other institutions.
"In part, that’s because we have this partnership with Fraser International College," she said, "and so we had international students already on the ground."