A NEW category to Northwest Community College’s budget for this year reveals its growing efforts to recruit international students.
The amount is $580,000 and comes from a provincial grant amounting to $390,000 and profits from contracts the college has signed to provide services overseas.
Recruiting international students, who pay more tuition than domestic students, fits within an overall policy of the provincial government for economic growth.
And crucially for NWCC, international students are helping make up for a shortfall of domestic ones, explains college president Ken Burt.
He makes reference to the closing of public schools and the consolidating students in remaining facilities.
“We’ve seen that here in this region with declining demographics,” said Burt.“If you don’t have students, you can’t run classes.”
The college now has four full-time equivalent employees dedicated to recruiting international students and they’ve been travelling around the world, most recently to India.
As such, the college has set a modest goal for this fall of recruiting 40 international students, double the amount from last year and a number Burt says is less than other colleges in the province.
Both Northern Lights in northeastern B.C. and North Island College on Vancouver Island host far more international students, he said.
“We’re really coming late to this dance,” Burt commented.
He said the college can provide a variety of programs either through the regular college year or during specific field programs during summer months.
The group has recently welcomed a group of students from India.
Selling the college to international students includes noting its lower tuition compared to other universities and its smaller class sizes, but there’s also an emphasis on the lifestyle smaller communities can offer.
But there is one major drawback and that’s the lack of adequate residences at the college campus here.
The current buildings date back to the mid 1970s.
“That’s the problem we have – very poor residences. And no food services [mostly on weekends] and no kitchens,” said Burt.
It’s why a major redevelopment plan of the campus, the first part of which is the current extensive renovation of the trades building, includes demolishing the current residences and then replacing them.
There are now 140 residence beds at the campus, including ones trailers for a work camp style.
The goal is to have 200 new beds in addition to keeping the work camp.
“It’s a $34 million project,” said Burt of the plan for new residences. “The business plan has been approved and it’s now before the [provincial] treasury board for approval.”
The college, along with the Coast Mountains School District, has also been looking for families here to take in international students.
“We think it’s a great opportunity for people to show somebody from another country what it’s like to live here,” said Burt.
But Burt also noted that recruiting an international student is one thing, getting them to Canada is another.
“The challenge is getting visas, the government paperwork,” he said.
To help, the college works with recruiting agencies in the countries it’s visited.
Where the college is banking on international recruiting success, something that will also benefit domestic students, it is also signing a growing number of agreements with universities in the province and in institutions overseas.
The general thrust of those agreements is that when a student comes to NWCC and then completes courses here, admission is guaranteed at those other institutions.
“Come here, go anywhere,” said Burt. “We’re creating pathways to go anywhere. I see this as an opportunity to create a customized approach to individual learning.”
It has international transfer agreements with VIA University College in Denmark, Monash University in Australia.
In Canada, the transfer agreements include the University of Victoria, Royal Roads University, British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT), and the University of British Columbia.
It’s latest admissions agreement was signed with UNBC.
Parallel to that signing, was a visit to UNBC by a group of 16 education consultants from 10 countries, including Nigeria, Turkey, Russia, China, India and Iran.
They came to the region on a two-day tour of the north, hosted by NWCC, UNBC, Northern Lights College and the College of New Caledonia.