Sask Colleges responds to IRCC International Student Policy
North Battleford, SK/Meadow Lake, SK - Last week Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) announced significant changes to international student program policy. These changes will see a national reduction to overall numbers of international students in the country and changes to the length of post-graduate work permit periods that students receive upon graduation.
Saskatchewan Colleges, an international recruitment and admissions partnership between Great Plains, North West and Suncrest College, was pleased to see that the IRCC policy changes were not blanketed nationally, and Saskatchewan is one of few provinces positioned to see a provincial allocation of international students that allows for reasonable increases from 2022 levels. The provincial government will be responsible for distributing Saskatchewan’s allocation amongst post-secondary institutes within the province.
“We are working closely with our post-secondary partners and the provincial government to ensure that rural voices are heard and that we are provided the opportunity to continue to serve our communities and local economies through international education,” said Kristy Sletten, Manager of International Admissions at Saskatchewan Colleges. “Saskatchewan Colleges has always ensured the programs available to international students are aligned with local labour market needs that cannot be filled by Saskatchewan residents alone. We’re helping train skilled workers for careers in high-demand industries including business, healthcare, human services, hospitality and early childhood education to ensure these services are maintained in our communities.”
Currently, rural Saskatchewan has more jobs than it does residents of working age. In 2023-24, Saskatchewan Colleges welcomed over 300 international students to rural Saskatchewan to help address this shortfall. The vast majority of these students are in blended cohort programs which means there are both domestic and international students in the same classrooms.
"Often, within the public discourse, the conversation can lead to worrisome conclusions that international students are impairing access for Canadians to pursue post-secondary programming. The truth within Saskatchewan Colleges is the exact opposite – international students are helping preserve program access for domestic students and First Nations in Saskatchewan,” said Eli Ahlquist, President and CEO at North West College. “Interest within our college service regions from domestic students is often insufficient to run a program with a reasonable cost per student. By supplementing domestic enrolments with international students, we are preserving, and often increasing, post-secondary access in a cost-efficient manner for tax payers and all students.”
Additionally, Saskatchewan Colleges member institutions are not impaired by the same challenges to find suitable housing that is occurring in many of the urban jurisdictions across the country.
“Throughout the service regions within Saskatchewan Colleges, the vacancy rates for rental units have typically averaged above the 3 per cent national average and well above out of province jurisdictions sitting around 1 per cent vacancy,” said Brad Mahon, President and CEO at Great Plains College. “The benefit of affordable housing combined with individualized on-campus supports and modest class sizes ensure students are provided with an exceptional learning experience.”
“We’re able to provide international students a supportive and quality educational experience and a great environment to live and work in rural Saskatchewan,” added Alison Dubreuil, CEO and President at Suncrest College. “We’re optimistic that by demonstrating the positive impact that international education is having on rural Saskatchewan, the allocation of international students provided by the provincial government will continue to meet the needs of our local labour markets and the communities we serve.”
Saskatchewan Colleges is an international recruitment and admissions partnership between Great Plains, North West and Suncrest Colleges. The colleges have been working collaboratively since October 2021 to serve international students in rural Saskatchewan.
North West College operates two primary campuses and 21 learning centres throughout the North West region of the province. Responding to the needs of students and local industry, for more than four decades, North West College has delivered training and services to facilitate growth in the communities it serves. The college offers programs in trades, health and community services, academic upgrading and university transfers. It has campuses in North Battleford and Meadow Lake and provides programming for 30 communities, including 20 First Nations communities, spread over 44,000 sq. km.
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