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International students have mixed feelings about visa cap, say system needs review

Amidst the vibrant atmosphere of a college campus just west of Toronto, the recent adjustments to Canada's international student program have sparked a spectrum of reactions among the diverse student body.

For Gayathri Jayachandrakurup Sreeja, who arrived in Ontario from India just last month to pursue a marketing program, the changes prompted concern for friends back home with similar dreams of a Canadian education. "They are pretty much sad about it," she said between classes at Sheridan College's Mississauga campus. "There are a lot of students who are willing to come here and study, set their future, so I think it's pretty bad for them."

Haritha Kaladharan, another student from India studying business and process management, acknowledged the disappointment felt by many in her home country but emphasized the necessity for Canada to address existing challenges within the program. "People in the other country may feel very sad because Canada has (become) more strict," she said while preparing for an exam. "But they don't know the struggle we face after coming here."

Kaladharan shed light on the difficulties international students encounter, such as securing housing and finding part-time jobs, all while grappling with significantly higher tuition rates compared to domestic counterparts. She emphasized the importance of comprehensive plans, saying, "If (Canada is) inviting more immigrants to the country, they should have some plans, like whether we can give jobs. Most of the people find very hard to get accommodation."

Manmohidpreet Singh, a 20-year-old marketing student at Sheridan College, echoed the sentiment that the visa cap is a necessary step. "They don't understand that they need lots of money to survive here," he remarked, cautioning prospective students about the financial challenges of living in Canada. "If you want to come here, be prepared."

The recent announcement by Immigration Minister Marc Miller to slash new visas for international students by over one-third this year aims to address the rapidly increasing number of temporary residents, putting significant pressure on the housing system. The two-year cap is also intended to provide time for the government to tackle issues in the system, including concerns about some institutions taking advantage of high international student tuition without delivering quality education.

However, the impact of these changes will vary across provinces. Ontario, having experienced substantial growth in international students, will see a 50% reduction in its allotment of new visas. The Council of Ontario Universities has expressed opposition to the cap, citing financial challenges faced by universities and forecasting significant operating deficits.

Peel Region, where Mississauga is located, is identified as one of the areas most affected by the influx of international students, causing disruptions in college admissions. In response, the Ontario government has mandated housing guarantees for incoming international students and announced a review of post-secondary institutions with a sizable international student population, implementing a moratorium on new partnerships between public colleges and private institutions.