BOTH the Coast Mountains School District and Northwest Community College could soon be hosting students from China should discussions underway this week in that country pan out.
Two officials from each educational body are part of the City of Terrace delegation which is visiting China this week to build on economic and other ties which began when a Chinese economic entity purchased nearly 1,200 acres of the city’s Skeena Industrial Development Park located just south of the airport.
Having two college officials in China fits with its plan to vastly increase the college’s foreign student population which stood at four students in the last academic year, says college official Heather Bastin.
“We are working on a number of initiatives to increase this number over the coming five years with the goal of 100 international students in 2020,” she said.
Bastin said the goal of college officials on the trip is to meet with Chinese educators to understand what might be needed.
“For instance, if they want to expand here in specific types of businesses, it would make sense for us to understand that so we can help set up courses specific to those industries, for both Chinese and local students,” she said.
“Having more international students on our campuses will help us meet a critical mass so we can offer more programming and more services to all our students, local and international,” Bastin added.
Coast Mountains school superintendent Katherine McIntosh, one of the two school district officials on the trip, said the district wants to first understand what’s possible.
“[The] soonest we would see families sending students over is for September 2017. We want to make sure that we really invest the time up front so that the experience the students have would be really high quality,” she said.
“It’s important the first time you bring a wave of students over … because it is that message that goes home to the families in China from that first wave of students that is going to determine if your program thrives or doesn’t.”
As it is, one of the main attractions for Chinese students coming here is that the provincial graduation Dogwood program is highly regarded, McIntosh added.
Key to the school district thinking is having Chinese students stay with local families.
“One of the main goals is that they would leave here fluent in the English language. The best way for them to learn the language is for them to be immersed,” McIntosh said.
Foreign students going to either high school or college here would also pay more than Canadian students.
For the school district, fees would be approximately $13,000, which is close to the provincial average.
“If we brought in a large number of students and had to start adding more divisions for secondary courses, the combined tuition would need to cover those costs. The program has to be self sustaining,” said McIntosh.
For the college, tuition would be three times the amount charged Canadian students. College official Bastin said international students would pay more because they don’t contribute as much to the tax base.
“It is common to off-set that gap by having higher fees for international students. NWCC fees will still remain very competitive and attractive for both international and local students,” she said.
“This is not about generating revenue from international students. It is about having a critical mass of students on our campus to provide better service and experiences for all of our students.”
This would be the second time the college has tried to attract students from China with the last concerted effort being made more than 10 years ago when then-college president Stephanie Forsyth struck agreements with Chinese post secondary institutions.
That met with limited success.
Along with China as a target, the college is working on attracting students from Germany, Bolivia, Colombia and India.