The shocks continue. This week, the US government ruled that international students enrolled in online study would be required to go back to their home country. That left US colleges and universities to choose the lesser of two evils - open up their campuses and risk spreading the virus; or move their courses online and have students go home, perhaps never to return. The American Council on Education, composed of university presidents, described the ruling as "horrifying."
Over the long term, these US decisions will, of course, benefit Canadian higher education by making this country seem more attractive. Prospective students will be shunning the US and looking for a good alternative.
Almost all Canadian universities are planning for online study this fall for the bulk of their courses. That's expected to result in a drop in international enrollment (and perhaps even a dip in domestic numbers if students decide to take a year off.) The impact on revenues will be substantial. For example, Dalhousie is budgeting for a 21 percent decline in tuition revenues and an 8 percent overall reduction in operating income.
In addition, there is the specter of schools being forced to continue with online instruction for the winter term. Tweeted Alex Usher of Higher Ed Strategy Consultants: "Most Canadian universities and colleges will hurt with one term online. Two is going to drive a few of them to the edge."
The expected decline in the number of international students enrolling this fall will have a dramatic impact on employment in the sector. Some international departments have already cut staff. Fewer teachers will be needed - some part-time teachers will not see their contracts renewed and unionized full-time teachers at a number of institutions have already been laid off. For example, Cape Breton University, which relies heavily on international student fees, announced in June that it was cutting 60 term employees and temporarily laying off 40 non-faculty staff.
Meanwhile, the English-language sector continues to struggle. Most schools earn the bulk of their revenues during the summer - and this year that has been virtually wiped out by the lockdown and travel restrictions.
Is there relief in sight? Gonzalo Peralta, executive director of Languages Canada, says his organization is "launching a major initiative" in the next while. While he was tight-lipped on the details, the group has been aggressively lobbying the federal government for a bailout. So far, two English-language schools have permanently closed and some people have speculated that half the sector could be wiped out unless there is some kind of government relief.
The K-12 sector has been hampered by delays
in provinces announcing school reopening plans for September. It's tough to recruit international students when overseas parents don't know what their child's education is going to look like this fall.