June 25, 2020
The Simon Fraser Student Society (SFSS) submitted its recommendations to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services for the 2021 BC Budget Consultation. The SFSS acknowledges that investment in post-secondary education produces graduates that are equipped with the knowledge and skills to succeed in and contribute to British Columbia’s growing workforce. The SFSS appreciates the commitment of the Province in supporting post-secondary institutions, but recommends changes for the 2021 Budget as follows:
According to Statistics Canada, the average debt of post-secondary graduates has nearly doubled over the past decade. Increasing student debts is one of many factors that can affect students’ education and quality of life, and more importantly, it can be a barrier for them to continue their studies. Evaluating and revising the current operational funding model for post-secondary institutions in B.C., and ultimately increasing operating grants, will decrease the reliance on students, particularly international students, to pay for universities and colleges’ operating costs across the Province.
While the SFSS applauds the Province for extending public healthcare coverage to international students, we are concerned that increasing the monthly cost of this coverage puts an unfair burden on international post-secondary students. International students already face barriers such as the lack of a support system in Canada, challenges accessing the labour market, and learning how to navigate banking and finances as a young adult in a new country. Having to opt-out and enroll in two separate programs can be a big challenge for students who are already facing these barriers.
In 2016, international student spending contributed over $3.7 billion to the B.C. economy, 21.6% of B.C.’s GDP for that year. Across Canada, they contributed $2.3 billion in tax revenue in 2015. However, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, both the Province and post-secondary institutions are currently economically vulnerable, as institutions would lose a major portion of their operating revenue if international student enrollment dropped, and the government would lose their large contributions to the economy. A comprehensive policy that creates both cost stability and predictability for international students and ensures international student enrollment can benefit institutions, local communities, and the B.C. economy.