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18-21 age group showing an upswing

By Randy Thoms Jan 4, 2024 | 4:47 AM

Students gather for orientation at Confederation College, September 2023. Photo courtesy Confederation College

The Northern Policy Institute says the 18-to-21 age group in northern Ontario is on the rise.

A new report suggests the region could see the age group increase by 13 per cent by 2034.

NPI says that would increase applications to the region’s colleges and universities by 15 per cent.

Post-secondary institutions in recent years have taken steps to increase the number of international students.

Lead researcher William Dunstan says there has been no impact on the enrolment of domestic students.

He says that could change over the next decade as we see the demographic rebound in young adults.

“When you start to see that rebound in domestic enrolments, that can create sort of attention and possibly financial instability when there now starts to need to be hard decisions about how many international students you want to receive versus how many domestic students,” says Dunstan.

The most recent statistics indicate international students make up about 10 per cent of the total student enrollment to as 60 per cent in some colleges and universities.

Northern Ontario-born students account for about 45 per cent of enrolment.

The NPI report notes under current funding arrangements, the region’s institutions have no financial incentive to increase enrolment by more than three per cent.

With international students paying as much as five times the tuition of domestic students, the report states colleges and universities have a financial disincentive against reducing international enrolment to create room for a growing domestic population of young adults.

“It sort of forces tension between the idea of the revenue and the financial stability from international students and the desire of institutions to serve local youth, create opportunities and support local youth and the local economy. For governments, there’s the decision of how they’re going to approach this,” says Dunstan.

One option is to increase funding, but the research paper does not suggest what the level of government should be.

He says that is best left to government and the post-secondary institutions to determine.

The report also touches on the importance of retaining international students.

“It’s really important for the school and the broader community to make an effort to be welcoming and to retain students after graduation so that they stay in the community. They contribute to the local economy, and we get benefits in the community from that.”

“What we don’t want is a situation where sudents are coming into northern Ontario, take space at local colleges and then leave northern Ontario.”

Dunstan says there have been good efforts and initiatives to attract and retain immigrants in northern Ontario that will be even more important in the near future.