Canada currently has more than 500,000 international students. Of course, many post-secondary students stay in dorms or apartments - but homestay is a key component of K-12 programs, private language schools and college/university English-language institutes.
ESQ Educational Services asked homestay staff to respond to a survey about host compensation in May. More than 40 programs across Canada responded. The result: The average fee paid to hosts is currently $845 per month. In last year's survey, the average was $750. That's an increase of $95 (13 percent) in just one year.
Whistler, British Columbia, continues to be the location with the most expensive homestay program. Fees there are $1,200 per month, with the local school board planning to raise it to $1,500 due to strong demand and a limited supply of host families.
Across Canada, a monthly fee of $900 was the most common, followed closely by $800.
The survey also asked whether low host compensation made it difficult to recruit hosts. A whopping 81 percent of respondents said it does.
"If you don't compensate families enough they will say it's costing them money to host a student so not worth it," says Lois Aitken of Mountain View School Division in Manitoba.
"However, not everyone does it for the money, but for the most part families need the money to help cover their costs."
When asked to consider the statement that "low compensation makes it hard to retain hosts," 81 percent of respondents agreed.
Commented Rosemary Mooney at Columbia College in Vancouver: "Unfortunately, a host family's loyalty lies to the amount they are being paid. I have lost many good families because our rates are too low. Vancouver is extremely expensive and hosts shop around for schools that pay the most."
Very few programs pay hosts extra for special diets. About 85 percent do not offer additional compensation for vegan, Halal or athlete diets. The remaining 15 percent provide hosts with less than $5 per day.
More than 85 percent of respondents said that they do not collect a damage deposit or charge a room cleaning fee. For those that did the amount and conditions varied widely.