Ap­pli­ca­tions from Amer­i­cans hop­ing to study at McMaster Univer­sity have surged this year

The Hamilton Spectator - - FRONT PAGE - ANDY BLATCHFORD

OT­TAWA — The head of Canada’s big­gest univer­sity or­ga­ni­za­tion says there’s grow­ing ev­i­dence that post-U.S. elec­tion un­cer­tainty could help boost an im­por­tant source of cash for the econ­omy: in­ter­na­tional stu­dents.

Uni­ver­si­ties Canada pres­i­dent Paul David­son said Thurs­day that the num­ber of U.S. stu­dents ap­ply­ing to Canada for next fall has soared — and the ex­tra at­ten­tion could bring sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits to the Cana­dian econ­omy.

The over­all eco­nomic ef­fect from for­eign stu­dents — in­clud­ing their much-higher tu­ition fees — was es­ti­mated at $11.4 bil­lion in 2014, said a study pre­pared last sum­mer for the fed­eral govern­ment.

That re­search also found that the com­bi­na­tion of tu­ition, hous­ing and dis­cre­tionary spend­ing by in­ter­na­tional stu­dents was greater than Cana­dian ex­ports of soft­wood lum­ber, fi­nan­cial ser­vices or wheat. They con­trib­uted roughly as much to the econ­omy as ex­ports of au­to­mo­tive parts, said the July re­port for Global Af­fairs Canada.

“So, this isn’t just nice for our econ­omy, it’s an im­por­tant part of our econ­omy,” said David­son, whose or­ga­ni­za­tion rep­re­sents 97 in­sti­tu­tions. “Our econ­omy needs young, bright peo­ple with global con­nec­tions and there’s lots of ca­pac­ity in the Cana­dian univer­sity sys­tem to ab­sorb these stu­dents.”

So far, U.S. ap­pli­ca­tions to McMaster Univer­sity have climbed 35 per cent, while the Univer­sity of Toronto has seen a spike of al­most 82 per cent — to 1,425 from 784 at this time last year.

David­son said Cana­dian uni­ver­si­ties have also seen more in­ter­est this year from coun­tries like In­dia and Mex­ico, where many of their stu­dents have his­tor­i­cally ap­plied to study in the U.S. The Univer­sity of Toronto said ap­pli­ca­tions from In­dia are so far up 45 per cent.

He be­lieves the con­cerns since the U.S. elec­tion have en­cour­aged more Amer­i­can and over­seas stu­dents to con­sider Canada.

The po­ten­tial eco­nomic bump from an in­crease in for­eign stu­dents comes amid con­sid­er­able un­cer­tainty within the aca­demic com­mu­nity across North Amer­ica.

David­son said an ex­ec­u­tive or­der signed this week by Trump to ban en­try for 90 days of cit­i­zens from seven ma­jor­ity-Mus­lim coun­tries has had an im­me­di­ate, pro­found ef­fect on in­ter­na­tional stu­dents and aca­demics who are un­able to ac­cess or even to re­turn to the U.S., where they are based.

“It’s real, it’s dis­rup­tive and we’re work­ing hard to ad­dress the needs of those peo­ple who are caught up im­me­di­ately,” David­son said.

“We don’t want to be seen as tak­ing ad­van­tage of the sit­u­a­tion, but the num­ber of U.S. stu­dents ap­ply­ing to study in Canada for next fall is surg­ing . ... We do have an op­por­tu­nity to at­tract more in­ter­na­tional stu­dents.”

A spokesper­son for McMaster said Thurs­day that the 35 per cent in­crease in ap­pli­ca­tions from the U.S. this year is an unofficial num­ber at this point and may fluc­tu­ate be­fore the fi­nal tally is re­leased af­ter April 1. The sur­pris­ing level of in­ter­est from the U.S. in the Hamil­ton univer­sity has caught the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s at­ten­tion, Michelle Dono­van wrote in an email.

“It’s in­ter­est­ing be­cause McMaster doesn’t do any re­cruit­ing in the United States and tra­di­tion­ally does not have a great num­ber of Amer­i­can stu­dents,” she said. “It hasn’t been an area of re­cruit­ment fo­cus for years given the high de­mand from On­tario stu­dents to study at McMaster.”

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