Foreign scholarships: Not a zero sum game

TheStar.com – Opinion/Editorials
Published On Mon Nov 08 2010

At first glance, opposition gripes about a new Ontario scholarship program for foreign students might strike a chord. In tough times, the Tories want any aid to benefit local students first. The NDP complains that Ontarians already face high tuition costs.

It’s a bluntly political calculus, but it doesn’t add up. The opposition is viewing education as a zero sum game and wrongly assuming that any foreign scholarships come at the expense of Ontario students.

In fact, Canadian universities are a growth industry and a key driver of the knowledge economy. There are 38,000 foreigners now paying their own way for a post-secondary education in Ontario — providing a $1 billion economic boost — and the province wants to increase that figure by 50 per cent in five years.

The key is to raise the province’s profile abroad, where Canada has been lagging badly. As good as we are at educating foreign students, we need to get a bigger piece of the action. Australia and Britain attract two to three times as many students. Establishing a prestigious, high-profile scholarship program for 75 graduate students (over four years) will attract high-achievers; it will also attract attention, boosting applications from paying students to help reach the ambitious target of 57,000 students coming to Ontario by 2015.

The $30 million scholarship plan not only gives our universities an academic advantage on campus, it will also serve as an overseas marketing tool and an investment in future tuition revenues and economic growth that will pay dividends for Ontario.

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