Laurentian University using international student tuition to subsidize costs

Laurentian University is using tuition dollars from international students to subsidize eight per cent of its operating budget, CBC News has learned.

New Ontario data shows universities increasingly rely on foreign dollars to operate

Second year international student Elyas Al-Sulaiman, from Saudi Arabia, is studying at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont. He is here on a scholarship provided by his country's government, so isn't paying out of pocket. The average international tuition at Laurentian is $22,000 per year. (Marina von Stackelberg)

International tuition fees make up 20 per cent of all revenue Laurentian University makes from students, despite only having 600 foreign students, CBC News has learned.

Laurentian is using international student tuition dollars to subsidize eight per cent of its operating budget.

On average, a Canadian undergraduate student will pay $6,500 per year in tuition at the Sudbury, Ont. university.

In comparison, Laurentian charges international students more than three times that price— $22,000 a year.

New numbers obtained by CBC show universities across the province are increasingly relying on international students to pay their bills, as provincial operating funds have essentially been frozen for the past decade.

Not a 'cash grab'

The high international student fees are needed because Ontario only subsidizes Laurentian's 9,000 Canadian students, according to Laurentian University's VP Academic and Provost, Pierre Zundel.
VP Academic and Provost Pierre Zundel says he thinks international students are important to the northern schools because they help fill spaces caused by region's declining population. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

It's up to the university to foot the bill for its 600 foreign students. 

"We don't have to actually bear the full cost of providing Canadian students with their education. That's not the case for international students," he said.

"International students also come with costs," he said.

"They are students who need some cultural acclimatization when they get here. We have to provide them supports since they are coming from a different kind of environment," said Zundel.

"So it's not a big sort of cash grab at all."

International tuition 'way too expensive' 

Jessica Kienansatu, a second year Laurentian University student from the Democratic Republic of Congo, said she spends a lot of time stressing about getting good grades.

She said it's because she knows her chemical engineering program is costing her parents a lot.

"I thought [tuition here] was way too expensive," Kienansatu said.

"In some other countries, it's a bit expensive for international students, but it's not this expensive."

"We have the same teachers," she said. "I don't see why we have to pay that much to get the exact same thing."

"[One person will pay] $600 for a course, and you will have to pay more than $2,000 for the exact same course."

Click here to hear from the university and international students.


Marina von Stackelberg is a CBC journalist based in Winnipeg. She previously worked for CBC in Halifax and Sudbury. Connect with her @CBCMarina or


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