There’s been a lot of foorfaraw lately about the 800,000 foreign students in Canada including: whether it’s all just a smokescreen for immigration, a trip through a diploma mill, or working underground for less than minimum wage. Among the numbers I’ve recently read was that foreign students comprise 17 percent of Canadian university enrolment and supply cajllions in annual revenue for those institutions.
I’m going to address an even thornier and far-less-discussed issue: what are those foreign students actually learning in university classes? A few years back, I was regularly invited to speak for several years running to a university class. The student audience usually numbered about sixty with about one-third obviously foreign.
After my remarks, the floor was opened for questions. Never did a foreign student ask a question. The students then broke into smaller groups; each group would report their findings back to the full class. No foreign student ever delivered that report.
My assumption? There was a language barrier. I also presume they had taken a language test that couldn’t have had a very high bar. As a result, I hereby urge all universities to set a more realistic level of fluency before permitting registration.
If that were done, there would almost certainly be fewer foreign students and a sizeable drop in the money received annually by Canadian schools because of the far higher fees paid by foreign students.
In order to make my tougher test idea more palatable for those schools, I have two income-generating suggestions. First, any Canadian student who graduates from a Canadian university and leaves Canada for a job or further degree in the U.S. must repay to the Canada Revenue Agency the public-supported portion of their undergraduate program. Second, to take a page from the IRS and its treatment of American citizens, any Canadian who moves to the U.S. must pay Canadian tax on their worldwide income. Even if they renounce their Canadian citizenship to avoid that continuing Canadian tax, that tax on their worldwide income will continue for another ten years.
I readily admit that I have no idea how much revenue would be generated for universities by my suggestions. Let’s change the tax laws and find out.