n an effort to keep so called “fake” students out, the University of Windsor locks international students into a mandatory contract that demands high tuition payments.
International students are in high demand because of the tuition revenues they provide. Even though international students represented 10.4 per cent of total enrolment in fall 2011, international tuition fees comprise about 25 per cent of tuition revenues for the university.
According reports from the university’s Office of Institutional Analysis, international students often pay more than double what domestic students pay.
The recruitment process at UWindsor was established to access countries where it is normally difficult for students to obtain visas, while at the same time, protecting against fraudulent applications.
“In order to get a visa [the Canadian government] wants to know, are you committed to staying in Canada and studying,” Clayton Smith, vice-provost, students and international. “Early on, we had a hard time getting our students visas. Nigeria in particular was a tough place.”
Smith said that fears of fraud was one of the barriers for students attempting to obtain a visa, explaining that sometimes students presented fabricated transcripts — even from universities in their home country. The Canadian government is also worried that students come under the false pretenses of wanting to study, and then remain in Canada.
“In order to convince [our] government that our integrity was high, … we set it up so that international students can’t, in their first term— or in some cases their first year,— receive a refund in Canada. They can, if they leave, get refunded back in their home country,” said Smith.
“It made it so we could get visas faster.”
“Normally international students have a very rocky transition period,” said Robert Hii, a former international student at the University of Windsor. “The contract may tell the student that they are obligated to pursue school above all else.”
“The government would be worried if the student in question moved to Canada under false pretenses and then set up a life there under the guise of being a student,” Hii added. “On the side of the university, there is a clear monetary incentive to be had out of a one-year contract from students who pay the most.”
UWindsor is keeping up with national competition for students by revising its strategy. Since renewing their contract with recruiting agency Higher-edge five years ago, the company has started working with several other clients “without our approval,” said Smith. “Some of them are our competitors … you can see how we might be somewhat concerned about this.”
“We also moved from an arrangement that was non-exclusive, to exclusive. If you recruit for Higher-edge, and you recruit a student from Peru; I have to pay for it. If on the other hand, I recruit a student from Peru that you didn’t recruit, I still have to pay you. Exclusive means all the applicants we enrol from whatever geography that falls under their domain, we pay them for it.”
After reviewing their international recruitment process, it was determined that the university would move from one recruiting company to up to 50 or 60, and end exclusivity clauses starting September 2013.
The university’s expedited recruitment process sometimes causes retention issues.
“Sometimes students come here because they have an offer, they get a visa, and … then they find out they got admitted to Brock (University),” said Kim Moore, director, international admissions. “Sometimes students just used that offer to get to Canada and then follow up on other applications.”
Boris Blasberg, an international student studying international relations at the UWindsor, attested to the efficiency of the university’s recruitment agencies. “Once I went to the agency I got accepted within three days of applying.”
Smith and Moore both said that if a student really wanted to change schools, they would transfer their funds to that institution— but they would not issue a refund in Canada.
Smith said that many universities have made international student recruitment a priority and that competition is growing. Moore added that UWindsor is no longer alone in the countries that rarely granted visas.
Provinces have also expressed an interest in expanding international student enrolment at post-secondary institutions. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has promised a 50 per cent increase in international student enrolment. Manitoba announced in 2011 its plan to offer free health care to international students in order to gain a competitive advantage in student recruitment.