February 6, 2024


SURREY – The Surrey Board of Trade convened a high-profile roundtable discussion with key stakeholders, including representatives from private and public post-secondary institutions, BC’s Opposition Critic for the Ministry of Advanced Education Coralee Oakes, MLA Jinny Sims, and MP Randeep Sarai, to address the recent changes introduced by the federal and provincial governments concerning the cap on international student visas, for both public and private post-secondary educational institutions. The message was to put a moratorium on the announcements and focus on consultation with stakeholders to create solutions together.

“There was no consultation with private post-secondary institutions when these government announcements were made,” said Anita Huberman, President & CEO, Surrey Board of Trade. “This abrupt decrease in the influx of international students will negatively impact the pivotal economic contributions they make to local communities and businesses. The government announcements will impact consumer spending for businesses, and it will impact the bottom line of private and public post-secondary educational institutions who are at the heart of driving our economy forward.”

The roundtable, held at the Surrey Board of Trade on February 1st, created the first step in a dialogue and collaboration among diverse stakeholders to create solutions. Several key points were emphasized during the discussions:

  1. Immediate End to International Student Moratorium: The Surrey Board of Trade calls for an immediate end to the international student moratorium and limits imposed, urging the government to commit to thorough consultations with the private education sector to develop more effective policies collaboratively.
  2. Private post-secondary educational institutions have been targeted by the government, lumped into one bad-actor scenario, damaging their reputations. Most private educational institutions create wraparound support services, including housing, for their students. Both levels of government need to step back and focus only on the bad actors, not compromise public and private educational institutions. There needs to be a revolutionary change to funding models to public post-secondary educational institutions and the partnerships with private post-secondary educational institutions. It is unfair to blame the housing crisis on international students.
  3. Students are concerned about the future of their education given the uncertainty of these announcements. Students were not consulted.
  4. Encourage immigration tied to high-priority industry needs such as health care, early childhood education, and trades.
  5. These government announcements will have significant negative impacts on the labour market, creating ripple effects to subsections of the economy.
  6. Enhance Family Reunification Program: Recognizing the importance of family support for international students, the Surrey Board of Trade advocates for the enhancement of the family reunification program to create a more supportive environment for students pursuing education in Canada.
  7. There is now a moratorium on new degrees even for current approved degree holders. This should be lifted. Allow the private sector to continue to advocate for new degrees based on their needs and research as is the current process. Ensure that there is demand for both domestic and international students.
  8. Housing: Ensure that the government is aware that some private educational institutions have a housing plan or strategy. They can help with the housing strategy even more if they were eligible for building grants and low-cost loans for conversions or developments with not-for-profits. These would incentivize more players in the market and speed up rental housing stock for students, staff and families and make cities more walkable and liveable (and perhaps more affordable).
  9. Release the Post-Secondary Formula Review and International Student Framework: The Surrey Board of Trade calls for transparency and timely release of the Post-Secondary Formula Review and International Student Framework, providing clarity and guidelines for post-secondary institutions and international students.
  10. Dedicated Representatives for Private Training Institution Branch (PTIB) and Degree Quality Assessment Board (DQAB) for Each Private College: To streamline communication and address the specific needs of private colleges, the Surrey Board of Trade proposes the appointment of a dedicated Representative for Private Training Institutions Branch (PTIB) and Degree Quality Assessment Board (DQAB) and for each private college.
  11. Prioritize Listening to Private Colleges: The Surrey Board of Trade stresses the importance of governments actively and respectfully listening to private colleges to understand and address their priorities effectively.
  12. Funding for Mental Health and Financial Support for International Students: Recognizing the unique challenges faced by international students, the Surrey Board of Trade advocates for government funding to support mental health and financial well-being initiatives tailored to the needs of this student demographic.
  13. Collaboration with Not-for-Profit Organizations: The Surrey Board of Trade suggests allowing not-for-profit organizations that provide wraparound support for newcomers to collaborate with both public and private education sectors, fostering a comprehensive support network for international students.

The Surrey Board of Trade and post-secondary educational institutions can create solutions with government. We need everyone to come to the table to dialogue on potential solutions to benefit both international students and the broader economy.

Anita Huberman is President and CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade

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