A Statistics Canada study, released on August 18, 2021, highlights the devastating financial impact of COVID-19 on Canadian
universities, and the risk associated with reliance on international student tuition revenue.
The “Projected Financial Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Canadian Universities for the 2020/2021 Academic Year” study places financial losses for post-secondary institutions between $438 million and $2.5 billion for the 2020/21 academic year.
As a result of a long-term drop in government grants and contributions, Canadian universities have relied more heavily on tuition fees as a source of revenue over the past two decades. Of total university revenues, the proportion from tuition fees grew from 25 to 29 per cent between 2014/15 and 2018/19. The rise in revenue from tuition fees can be partly explained by a 36 per cent increase in enrolments of international students, who have seen their average tuition fees rise by 34 per cent. In contrast, over the same five-year period, domestic student enrolments rose just 1 per cent and average tuition fees were up 14 per cent.
The report warns that post-secondary institutions need to reconsider their reliance on international tuition revenue as they are “facing a potentially significant decline in international enrolment in the 2020/21 academic year,” due to “travel restrictions, campus closures, lost personal income affecting affordability, and a shift to online learning.”