Updates as of March 12, 2024:

BC keeps rolling-they need more housing but they have a plan to do it. Scion has several clients doing studies/strategies to prep for the on-campus student housing funding program. Current rules would have to change for campuses to be eligible for the Federal CMHC campus housing plan but BC’s plan is working. Student housing funding-CMHC is charged with creating a “low-cost loan” program for campus housing. Looking forward to working with CMHC on this important element of strategy.

Nova Scotia has told campuses in Halifax and Sydney they need to house 15% of their enrolment. Specific details about what counts towards 15% are missing – i.e. can an off-campus master lease count, and can a shared facility among multiple campuses count? Looking forward to more clarity on the directions as both cities are in serious housing crunches that include students (domestic and international).

Ontario has put forward about 50% of the funding recommendations from the Blue Ribbon Committee-good start-but kept the tuition freeze. There is no explanation of what “guaranteed housing options for incoming international students” means yet. Technically, if you do not consider safety, affordability, or proximity of housing options, most campuses meet that definition with housing in their communities, but that is clearly not the idea!! Campuses need some definition of that mandate so they can strategize multi-pronged solutions around housing.

Quebec – Concordia and McGill have brought forth action against the province for the tuition changes and student strikes are being organized. As someone who was working at McGill for the provincial student strikes about 11 years ago – this can be both an amazing show of solidarity and peaceful protest and it can also turn violent. Let’s hope for the former and a better decision on tuition.

The impact of the enrolment caps is not completely certain for every province nor public yet, but there are some provinces that have been given clarity. Tragic how long this is taking as it is impacting enrolment and the image of Canada through uncertainty. We are not the only country looking at this, but some certainty would help. Australia put together a rather comprehensive plan – whether you agree with it or not, it is clear and public.

All of this to say…things are moving but not fast enough to make a significant difference for Fall 2024. New construction was never going to help Fall 2024 but that is not the only way to get more student housing capacity quickly. If anyone wants to chat with The Scion Group about student housing in Canada and how we might be able to help your campus plan – please reach out to me directly or to advisory@thesciongroup.com

Updates as of February 21, 2024:

As of February 20, there have not been many detailed updates on the international student numbers/cap and how they will be applied, neither on the ‘low-cost loan’ program nor on the mandates for housing in Nova Scotia and Ontario. This is all going on at the same time as very similar issues are happening in the UK and Australia. Australia’s government just declined 90,000 student visas, and the UK is having similar discussions that also relate directly to the issues of domestic tuition potentially rising vs staying under a freeze. It may be somewhat of a saving grace to each of these three countries that none of the others are going to be the easy option – ie. if a student cannot get a permit to Canada, it is not going to be simple to get to Australia and UK which are the other two most popular destinations for an English-based education. 

Discussions between the federal government and institutions in Canada expecting cuts in permits are getting more detailed, as are discussions and strategies for institutions in those provinces where permits could increase. The ‘low-cost loan’ program is going to be under CMHC, and its details are being planned out now. Scion is in close contact with government officials; when official information is available, we will share it publicly.

Please feel free to reach out to discuss your campus situation.

Published on February 13, 2024:

Several recent government decisions in the midst of the Canadian housing crisis have had significant impacts on the country’s colleges and universities. These new regulations will affect universities and colleges differently due to the varying levels of on-campus housing and international students as a proportion of enrolment. The details of implementing these changes are still largely uncertain, with ongoing announcements coming from the Federal and Provincial governments on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. What follows is a quick synopsis of the proposed changes and the potential impact on Canada’s institutions.

Federal Decision:

The Federal government plans to reduce undergraduate study permits by 35% for Fall 2024 and keep that decrease for two years. The provinces that would be feeling most of the impact of reductions are Ontario (by far the most impacted), British Columbia, and Nova Scotia.  Based on the stated issues of targeting “bad actors” among recruitment agents and some private institutions, it is unclear how these cuts would impact the universities and colleges of each provincial publicly funded/assisted education system.

In theory, the reduction of permits will hit the private colleges harder; however, those public-private partnership arrangements for curriculum delivery are a significant revenue source for the public institutions involved (mostly the colleges).

How the 35% reduction will be determined per institution is yet to be formally announced; however, several estimates are being put forward based on data and announcements available. There are several provinces that will actually have the chance to increase the number of international students, some by significant numbers. Due to higher international student proportions of enrolment and graduate programs being unaffected, it would seem logical that the public colleges will be more impacted than the universities, especially in Ontario, but if the private colleges are directly targeted, that impact on Ontario’s Colleges might be minimized.

Ontario Provincial Announcement and Impact:

The government has put a freeze on new public-private curriculum delivery agreements effective immediately and is reviewing programs with heavy international enrolment.

The government also stated it “will also require all colleges and universities to guarantee housing options are available for incoming international students.” It is uncertain what a guarantee of housing options means.  There is no word yet on unfreezing tuition either, though the government has indicated this week it will make an announcement on the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission’s recent report on the status of higher education in Ontario.  This report included recommendations for an increase in funding directly and/or through tuition.

British Columbia Student Housing Strategy

The province of BC is launching Phase 2 of its student housing funding program to support increases in campus housing numbers via a mix of low-interest loans and grants.  Campuses wishing to apply for such funding can follow an existing process, including a housing market and demand study, business case, and campus planning documents.  More than 8,500 beds had been approved under Phase 1.

Nova Scotia Provincial Government Announcement

Student housing will be a priority focused on the greater Halifax area and the greater Sydney area, as these are where the concentration of housing issues exist for students.  Campuses are expected to have plans that include an assessment of the student housing situation and plans for improving it. This should include creation of concrete plans for managing international student growth, including housing issues.

Funding

It was recently announced that student housing – on and off campus – is now eligible for Federal “low-cost loans” through an expanded program that did not previously include student housing.  Details are not yet available, but the BC plan’s process is an existing one that could be the basis for a wider program to account for issues specific to student housing.

Student Housing Implications

There is no time more important for colleges and universities to have a housing strategy based on real data about their student housing demand and need as well as current availability – on and off campus.  This can assist in campus planning, pursuit of partnerships on or off campus, funding requests, and getting a true assessment of how much housing is needed in a fashion that students can reasonably afford.

Given the implications for the cities/towns as well as the institutions, this provides a clear opportunity for the cities/towns and the institutions to work together on a proper assessment and plan as the pairs of the City of Brampton and Sheridan College and the City of Barrie and Georgian College are doing.

Solutions that Work

The Scion Group has been working with campuses and cities across the country on student housing demand and market assessments, as well as housing strategies.  Our goal is to help solve problems and provide real data on which to base decisions.  Finding the sweet spot between what students want, need, and can afford is our specialty. Every market is unique, and the college and university markets are not the same – Scion’s experience can work for any market, individual institutions, multi-campus and multi-institution projects, and partnerships between campuses and cities/towns.

Reach us at advisory@thesciongroup.com should you have any questions about how these new regulations could impact your institution.

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