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Daniel Je is a graduate from the Schulich School of Business at York University and a content editor at OneClass, the educational technology firm based in Toronto.


In the next academic year, Ontario students and universities will experience major changes implemented by the provincial government, from performance-based funding for schools to major changes to provincial loans for domestic students.

One major change that will come into effect this year is a ten percent decrease in tuition for domestic students across all universities. In response to this, many schools are looking to international students to assist in offsetting this loss in tuition revenue.

One school that has already planned to do so is the University of Windsor which has announced an increase in international student tuition by an average of five percent (for some programs, nine percent) to help with the expected fall in tuition revenue.

As international students are about to undergo some substantial changes, at OneClass, we looked at the tuition fees and enrolment for both domestic and international students among Ontario universities over the past 12 years. We wanted to see the distinctions between the two student groups and how they have changed over time.

The data used was from a tool called CUDO (Common University Data Ontario) by the Council of Ontario Universities, school records such as tuition fee schedules, and school-specific CUDO reports.

Here’s what we discovered:

International tuition increased 2.6 times more than domestic tuition and 3.5 times more than inflation.

From $5,162 in 2006 (in 2017 dollars) to $6,528 in 2017, the average domestic tuition for an undergraduate first-year arts and science degree increased 26.46 percent. International tuition for the same degree increased 68.61 percent from $15,217 in 2006 (in 2017 dollars) to $25,656 in 2017.

The inflation rate during this period was 19.41 percent.

International tuition outpaced domestic tuition increases and the inflation rate by 2.6 times and 3.5 times, respectively.

Queen’s University and the University of Toronto (all campuses) stand out. Both schools had increase rates of about 26 percent for domestic tuition (from 2006 to 2017) while international tuition was increased by 112.27 percent and 127.75 percent, respectively.

On average, international tuition in Ontario costs 3.9 times more than domestic tuition (2017-2018 academic year).

The average domestic cost for an undergraduate arts and science full-time degree in 2017 was $6,528. The international tuition was $25,656, making it almost four times that of domestic tuition.

Queen’s and the University of Toronto stand out again.

An undergraduate arts and science degree at Queen’s and the University of Toronto costs around $6,580 (first-year) for domestic students. For international students, the costs skyrocket to $37,490 and $45,690, respectively.

The average annual increase in international enrolment from 2006 to 2017 is 5.7 times higher than domestic enrolment, on average.

With the average annual increase at 1.6 percent for domestic enrolment and 9.15 percent for international, international enrolment has increased by almost six times more, on average, than for domestic students annually.

Lakehead University has significantly shifted its focus to international students.

From 2006 to 2017, the average annual increase in international students at Lakehead was 21.46 percent while domestic enrolment actually decreased, at an average annual rate of -0.55 percent.

The proportion of international students among Ontario universities overall increased 2.3 times from 2006 to 2017.

In 2006, the average proportion of international students among Ontario universities was only 5.65 percent. In 2017, this proportion increased to 12.77 percent, 2.26 times more than 2006.

Lakehead stands out again when looking at the proportion of international students.

From 2.01 percent in 2006 to 15.43 percent in 2017, the proportion of international students at Lakehead has increased 7.7 times in just 12 years.

Over the previous 12 years, universities have clearly become increasingly dependent on international students.

As demand for Ontario education continues to rise, universities can increase tuition and enrolment for international students at much higher rates than domestic rates.

A similar situation is occurring at the University of Melbourne where international enrolments could surpass domestic enrolments by 2020

With a ten percent drop in tuition, universities will need to investigate other ways to offset this significant revenue loss and international students appear to be a very possible alternative.

It will be interesting to see how Ontario universities react and how the overall experience for international students is affected.

(See the full report with complete insights, notes/sources, and graphs: Ontario Universities’ Increasing Reliance on International Students)


Photo by Kai Oberhäuser on Unsplash