Hamilton’s Mohawk College wants Ottawa to delay international student enrollment cuts until April

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Published January 26, 2024 at 3:47 pm

A two-year cap on international student visas has colleges and universities unsure of the impacts the new rules will have on enrollment, with the schools – including Mohawk College in Hamilton – asking the federal government to delay the new requirements to April to allow the provinces time to “responsibly” develop and implement the new system.

“This announcement is already having an impact on Mohawk College and our accepted and future students, as well as on regional employers and the greater Hamilton community,” said Mohawk CEO Ron McKerlie, who said the delay would ensure the new requirements are not “negatively impacting” students who were “not intended” to be part of the government’s pending legislation.

With students applying for the fall semester expected to be the first cohort of international students affected by the new measures, an immediate moratorium on student visa processing has been put in place as of January 22.

This has halted the application process for students who have already been accepted into programs at Mohawk College that will begin in May and McKerlie said their education has been “jeopardized” by the new measures.

Student visa applications submitted prior to January 22 are not impacted by the change.

“At a time when labour shortages are being experienced across all sectors and there are not enough domestic students available to fill those gaps, graduating international students are helping to address this pressing need, McKerlie declared.

McKerlie said only making exceptions for students in master’s and PhD programs “do not reflect the current and future demands of the labour market” and would “severely limit” the number of qualified international students entering post-graduate programs such as Supply Chain Management, Cyber Security Analytics, Digital Health, Autism and Behavioural Science, Brain Disorders Management, Mental Health and Disability Management and Human Resources Management.

These disciplines, he noted, are areas that face workforce shortages.

McKerlie said Ontario colleges want Ottawa to treat post-graduate credentials at public colleges the same way it treats post-graduate credentials at universities by exempting them from the cap.

“While we respect the government’s concerns about recent issues around fraud and the quality of education at some private institutions, this does not apply to our college,” McKerlie said, while acknowledging that “more work can be done” to improve international education processes in the province.

Mohawk College currently has 7,200 international students at its five campuses.

The specific impact on enrollment numbers the changes can’t be assessed just yet, he added.

“The affected students, like all Mohawk College students from wherever they are joining us, have chosen to study with us. They have given us their trust and we will continue to honour that, providing them with one of the best educations and college experiences in Canada.”

On Monday, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Marc Miller announced measures to limit international student enrolment, setting an intake cap on international student permit applications at 364,000 for a period of two years, a 36 per cent decrease from the nearly half a million issued last year.

A statement from Ontario Colleges, which represents two dozen publicly funded colleges in Ontario, said the decision has already created “total chaos” for students hoping to come to Canada for an education.

“The federal government’s cap on study permits for international students is essentially a moratorium by stealth that is already causing significant and unnecessary upheaval for students, employers and communities,” the statement read.

The new restrictions were in response to concerns that some schools are bumping their international quotas to boost revenues and putting a further strain on the country’s housing market.

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