Over the last decade, the school, based in Sudbury, Ontario, failed to attract enough international students to balance its budget. Laurentian’s debt now stands at $188 million, according to its creditor protection court filings. Meanwhile, in recent years other Canadian universities have enrolled thousands of foreign students, who pay higher tuition than domestic students, to balance their budgets.
A Laurentian spokeswoman told The PIE News that new international student enrolments are down 29% this year. That compares with the average across Ontario of a decline of 0.6%. Covid-related travel restrictions have meant that many students have been unable to come to Canada since March 2020.
“One of Laurentian’s weaknesses in the run-up to 2021 was its chronic inability to attract international students,” said Alex Usher of the consulting firm Higher Education Strategy Associates.
“Bluntly, the Ontario system of funding the higher education system incentivises taking international students and Laurentian was an institution that never seemed to get the message.”
“The Ontario system of funding the higher education system incentivises taking international students”
The task of recruiting international students to Laurentian has gotten tougher in the past year. The creditor protection filing has made potential students shy away from the school, turning to other Canadian universities instead.
The risk is very low that Laurentian will go under and leave international and domestic students in the lurch. There has never been a case of an Ontario publicly funded university failing.
In December, Laurentian said it had secured $35 million from the Ministry of Colleges and Universities to refinance a loan. In addition, the province will provide $6 million in Covid funding and $22 million in “performance protection” support in the next few years.
In an effort to balance its budget, Laurentian has cut 200 faculty and staff positions. It also eliminated a number of programs with low enrolments.