Promises of a future dorm at Algoma’s Brampton campus ring hollow for students struggling with city’s housing crisis
(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer)

Promises of a future dorm at Algoma’s Brampton campus ring hollow for students struggling with city’s housing crisis

“We are international students, we have to manage.” 

Algoma University’s Karamjeet Kaur’s dilemma is unfortunately all too common for international students studying in Brampton. 

Institutions like Algoma invest heavily in recruitment efforts to attract students from around the world to their schools. Those from India have become the lifeblood of the university, which is based 700 kilometres away from Brampton, in Sault Ste. Marie. They are charged more than three times the tuition fees Ontario students pay, and now make up almost 70 percent of the university’s student population. It was part of a reckless strategy about seven years ago when Algoma was overburdened by debt, and in a three-year period, the number of students at Brampton’s satellite campus increased by almost 900 percent, from about 540 in the 2020/21 academic year to 5,372 students currently, almost all of whom are from India.

They arrive with few of the supports and features of most major university campuses across the country, leaving students like Kaur “to manage” on their own, after collecting exorbitant fees that keep Algoma running.

The dreadful housing situation in the city pushes many  students into exploitative or even dangerous living conditions. 

Kaur is currently studying for a Bachelor of Computer Science degree at the downtown Brampton campus, which features leased spaces in a number of buildings that were not meant for educational needs. She is renting a unit in a detached house along with seven other people.

It gets “congested,” she told The Pointer, and even though she and her roommates are “not comfortable” living with so many people, it is something they have to accept as international students in the city. 

Her rent is roughly $500 per month not including utilities, a lot of money for her and is especially difficult when students just arrive.

“It's very tough for students when they are new and it's very hard for them to pay $500 per month.” 

In Ontario, general minimum wage is currently $16.55 an hour. The average monthly rent in Brampton for a two-bedroom unit is $2,398, according to data from for March. 

Algoma should provide housing for its students, she said. 

While the university planned its revenue strategy on the backs of international students, to recover from its poor financial management (which was highlighted by Ontario’s Auditor General in a 2022 report) that left Algoma swimming in debt, no student housing was built in Brampton despite the massive enrolment push to turn around its troubled finances. 

Kaur thinks Algoma should prioritize housing for newcomers, saying the students who just arrived in Canada have an especially challenging time in Brampton. 

At its main campus in Sault Ste. Marie, Algoma provides three on-campus residency options available to students. The Algoma Dormitory, opened in 2012, is a 96-bed residence for first-year students and includes a fully-furnished bedroom with a single bed, desk, wardrobe and a bathroom shared with one other student. It provides high-speed wireless Internet connection, security features and 24-hour video surveillance in common areas. There is a weekly cleaning service in all bathrooms and common areas, study spaces, laundry facilities and a required meal plan, among other things. 

None of this is offered to its Brampton students, who effectively subsidize their counterparts 700 kilometres away.

The Algoma Dormitory at the Sault Ste. Marie campus.

(Algoma University) 


Algoma’s Spirit Village Dormitory offers many of the same features as well as a shared kitchen space in its 45-bed student residence. 

Spirit Village Townhouses are also part of the main campus, which provide “convenient and affordable on-campus housing for Algoma University students,” each with five private bedrooms, two bathrooms, a common living room, and a kitchen, according to the university’s website. On top of a similar bedroom setup and some of the same amenities as the other two options, students also have access to a fully-furnished kitchen and “living room spaces with a kitchen table and chairs, sofa, television, refrigerator, and oven.”


The Spirit Village Townhouses at the Sault Ste. Marie campus.

(Algoma University)


Algoma’s website acknowledges “there are currently no on-campus housing options available at our GTA campuses,” but that “there are plenty of rental and housing opportunities near our campuses.” Along with the campus in Brampton, Algoma also operates what it calls its Creekbank Site located in Mississauga. 

The rental options available near the Brampton campus are not always affordable to its students. Finding work in the city to support paying for rent and other costs of living is also often a barrier. 

Savan Patel, who is enrolled at the Brampton campus, lives in Kitchener because he was able to find work there to support himself. “There are no jobs in Brampton,” he told The Pointer, adding that to afford his living expenses, he must seek work “anywhere.” 

“In the main campus, [Sault Ste. Marie], they have their own housing,” he said, envious of amenities like food programs and laundry. He said Algoma should provide the Brampton campus with similar facilities. 

According to a spokesperson, the university is planning to bring hundreds of beds at a new residency in Brampton.

In an email, an Algoma University spokesperson told The Pointer it will break ground on a “new 500-600-bed student residence in Brampton soon.” The university did not provide a specific timeline for the initiative or confirm to The Pointer if ground will be broken this year. A spokesperson said an announcement including a date will be provided “very soon.”

“Algoma University is pleased to share that our housing study, commissioned by subject experts (SCION) in 2022, has provided invaluable insights into our housing needs as a public university,” the spokesperson wrote. “Through collaboration with the Brampton municipal government, engaging with Algoma University Students’ Union (AUSU), and conducting student surveys, we have diligently assessed the requirements of our student body.”


Despite the intake of thousands of additional international students at its Brampton campus, Algoma has not built housing for them.

(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer) 


“While we eagerly embark on this endeavor, we continue to actively explore additional housing options to provide our students with more choices. This includes our partnership with HomeStay, which supports students, domestic and international, to live in a local household while attending Algoma U,” a spokesperson told The Pointer. “Additionally, we have dedicated housing support staff that provide the necessary support to students who choose to live off-campus and not with a local family. The workers help ensure students are residing in safe and comfortable accommodations.”

Like Kaur, Patel also shares a unit with seven other people, but he said this is suitable for him because there are three bathrooms and four bedrooms, with two people to each bedroom of the detached house. 

He said the cost is not affordable and he had to get support from his parents or take extra shifts at work to make rent. The unit’s rent was raised since he moved in and is currently around $3,700 including utilities.

Students are also facing high food costs and other living expenses. “It's too…challenging,” he said. “Everyone [is] facing the same problem” with affordability.


Savan Patel says there are not enough jobs available in Brampton and so he works and lives in Kitchener while attending Algoma’s satellite campus, which he finds challenging given the distance.

(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer)


Mohammad Ragib Moorsarker, another student at the Brampton Algoma campus, said he currently lives in Toronto with four of his friends in a shared unit. His personal situation allows him to afford the accommodation, but his friends struggle. 

“Two of my friends who live with me…they are suffering from the job crisis,” he said. One attends York University and he says others he knows are leaving to study in other countries where the cost of living is more affordable for international students.  

He believes Algoma should provide more on-campus jobs and co-op programs, options he sees at the Sault Ste. Marie campus. With all the money being made from international students in Brampton, he said the revenues should be going back to them.

Algoma University’s total cash assets went from $5,806,372 in 2016, when it was struggling with debt, to $227,985,000 in 2023, according to its public financial disclosures, due almost entirely to its massive increase in international student enrollment at the Brampton campus, where approximately 5,000 international students would create about $110 million of revenue a year, based on fees for two semesters. 

Approximately 92 percent of students at the Brampton campus are international students from India and are charged $10,000 per term for tuition while Canadian and Americans pay $2,932, according to the institution's website. All its students are charged the same $495 per term in additional fees for amenities, however they do not receive the same services and supports. 

The Brampton campus hosts almost 70 percent of Algoma's students, yet they do not enjoy features at the main campus such as a modern athletic/recreation centre, meal program, a designated library and a student centre. At Sault Ste. Marie, The Speakeasy is a student centre which “operates as a patio, pub, and entertainment hub,” where students can “relax…listen to live bands and performances, study,” or participate at annual planned evening events like karaoke nights or open mic nights. The main campus also hosts its Arthur A. Wishart Library. 

For Brampton students, the institution promotes amenities provided by the City of Brampton, such as the Four Corners Brampton Public Library or the Rose Theatre. It highlights a local YMCA as a nearby feature of the downtown location, but does not provide students with their own university-funded recreational facility. 


A screencap of what is highlighted near the Brampton Algoma campus, including a YMCA. 

(Algoma University)


According to Algoma University’s webpage, its main campus in Sault Ste. Marie offers an athletics complex which includes indoor and outdoor courts (for badminton, basketball, volleyball or tennis), change rooms with saunas, three group fitness studios and “a weight room with state-of-the-art equipment.” This facility, called the George Leach Centre, also offers Zumba, Step, Spin, Yoga and Pilates group fitness classes and has a larger group fitness studio, a spin studio and a private studio all available to students. 

The same student fees for these features in Sault Ste Marie are charged to international students in Brampton who do not have access to them. 

In its email, Algoma told The Pointer it “offers all students a high-quality public education in a unique, cross-cultural environment,” and said it is “deeply committed to academic integrity,” stating “we work hard to offer the services, facilities and resources that ensure all Thunderbirds — domestic and international — can build a safe, healthy, successful life.”    

Moorsarker disagrees and said Algoma should “give us a real campus. This is not a campus.”


Mohammad Ragib Moorsarker, a student at Algoma University’s Brampton satellite campus, said the institution needs to invest more into jobs, amenities and other resources it provides to students at its main campus in Sault Ste. Marie.

(Hafsa Ahmed/The Pointer)


Two Honours Bachelor of Computer Science students who attend the Brampton campus and are also roommates told The Pointer they feel good about their experience at the campus overall, but said market-rent is not affordable. They live near the Brampton Gateway Terminal and did not want to be identified.

“[The] housing market is way too bad,” one said. Their current accommodation is split between six people, each paying more than $500 including utilities. 

Anything cheaper in Brampton would be too overcrowded; “people are just stealing money” from tenants, including international students. The City tried to roll out a pilot program to crackdown on predatory landlords, but was forced to pause it in January weeks after it was launched due to backlash from landlords, many of whom rent out space in their own home.

At one point during their search for housing, the students recalled an offer for $500 per tenant for “more than ten people” in the unit who would have to share two washrooms, one kitchen and one master bedroom. 

“Personally, I feel it's not even hygienic,” one of the students said. The other shared that for about $500 per person, he would still be willing to pay if the unit is clean and safe.

They suggested Algoma subsidize the cost of housing for international students.

The provincial government has continued to come under fire for its underfunding of post-secondary institutions, with some critics laying the blame on the PC government for institutions like Algoma becoming financially dependent on revenue from international students, with clear evidence of exploitation.

A November 2023 report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives titled Back from the brink: Restoring public funding to Ontario’s universities, highlighted the province of Ontario’s cuts to funding through the years and concluded that, as a result, universities and colleges have responded by using international students as “exploitable ‘cash cows’”.

Ontario’s universities have become reliant “on international students to provide a vastly disproportionate share of tuition revenues,” following the deregulation of international student tuition fees in the province, the report notes. From 2001 to 2012, international students made up roughly 13.8 percent of growth in full-time enrolment at Ontario universities, but between 2013 and 2022 efforts to recruit them “ramped up substantially” and they “made up an average of 66.8 [percent] of growth in full-time enrolment” during this period. 

According to the report, during the 2021–22 school year, international students made up 19 percent of all full-time students in the province but paid almost half of all tuition fees (48.4 percent). They make up almost 70 percent of Algoma’s student population. 


The Back from the brink report flags deregulation of international student tuition as a key factor in Ontario universities becoming dependent on them for revenue. 

(Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives/Back from the brink: Restoring public funding to Ontario’s universities)


In January, the federal government announced a cap on international student permits over two years to address “unsustainable” increases in international student enrolments. This year, Canada is expected to see 360,000 study permits approved, a 35 percent decrease from last year. 

A spokesperson for Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) previously told The Pointer in an email that the new measures would mean provinces and territories will be in control of how permits are allocated in their jurisdiction and that they will “continue to be responsible for designating learning institutions for hosting international students.” 

IRCC expects designated learning institutions (DLI) to “only accept the number of students they can provide proper services for, including assistance in finding adequate housing,” the spokesperson said.

Algoma University is a DLI which, despite plans, does not currently provide any housing options for its almost 5,400 students (mostly from India) studying at its Brampton satellite campus. 

In its email statement to The Pointer, an Algoma spokesperson wrote that “the university has undergone substantial growth, adding both domestic and international students across our three campuses,” as part of its strategic enrolment plan.

“We also acknowledge that the allocation of international student numbers for fall 2024 rests with the provincial government. Algoma U remains committed to fostering a vibrant, inclusive community, attracting talent globally while supporting local initiatives to address housing challenges.”

When asked if Algoma will be reducing the number of international students at its Brampton campus following the federal cap and the expectation from the IRCC for DLIs to "only accept the number of students they can provide proper services for, including assistance in finding adequate housing,” a spokesperson told The Pointer “[t]he federal government's incoming cap on international study permits primarily affects private for-profit institutions and bad apples, not good public universities like Algoma U.”

Brampton students previously told The Pointer they are routinely moved out of in-person classes to virtual settings, without any explanation, and they often do not even deal with professors face-to-face. Almost 5,400 students have to share 16 classrooms in Brampton, according to the university’s website (while Algoma said there are more than this, it appears that those are at the small Mississauga location in an isolated commercial building south of Brampton). There is no designated library, no athletic/recreation centre, no meal plans and no student housing. 

Ontario’s Auditor General also questioned the aggressive profit-driven international student recruiting tactics of Algoma, pointing out that admissions requirements were sometimes ignored, and that private recruiters were incentivized to target large numbers of students “but not necessarily more qualified students.”

Algoma seems unphased by the criticism, and the experience of some international students in Brampton who told The Pointer they are being exploited while getting a substandard education as the university now shows almost $228 million in cash on hand (compared to less than $6 million a few years ago) after increasing its Brampton enrolment from India 900 percent in three years.   

“While all universities may feel some impact on international registration as a result of IRCC’s changes, public universities like Algoma University are not the target of these changes,” the spokesperson wrote. 

However, officials at the federal Ministry of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship did not mince words when The Pointer previously asked for comment on Algoma’s strategy to derive massive profits from international students, saying it is “clear that the number of students arriving in Canada has become unsustainable,” a spokesperson wrote in January.

Minister Marc Miller recently said that in addition to unethical private career colleges, publicly funded institutions that have abused the system will also be scrutinized, and that if provinces do not do it, his ministry will.

At a recent event hosted by Toronto Metropolitan University he was asked about an institution in Sault Ste. Marie. 

“There is at least one institution in Ontario that had a hundred million dollar positive balance at the end of the year,” Miller said. “And that, in my mind, isn’t the vocation of a college or university, not that I would deny anyone the right to get a profit, but you’re doing it on a bunch of people that have sometimes had their family earnings pooled into one person…drawn to Canada and [those dreams] are dashed when they can’t get a job or [get] a crappy education.”  



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