KELOWNA - A push over the last few years to recruit more international students to Okanagan College has paid off handsomely.
So much so, that students with international student visas this year make up 14 per cent of the nearly 8,400 students at the college, director of public relations Alan Coyle said, and will contribute an estimated $8.3-million of the $34.5-million tuition the college will collect from students in the 2017 to 2018 school year.
Coyle said that 14 per cent translates into approximately 1,180 international students with more than a thousand of them in Kelowna, although there has been increases at the college’s Penticton and Vernon campuses as well.
There are international students attending Okanagan College from all over the world, but Coyle said the top five source countries are India, China, Jamaica, Japan and Saudi Arabia.
The success of the program hasn’t been without challenges, Coyle said.
Along with the surge in international students has come some problems with integration, Coyle said, something the college has tried to get ahead of by conducting orientation workshops and international student weeks.
"We are trying to address that ahead of time with specific orientations, not just on policy and procedures but cultural norms as well,” Coyle said.
As well, the college is looking at its ultimate capacity for foreign students, as classroom space runs low and debate continues about the ideal percentage of foreign students that can be placed in any one class.
To that end, Coyle said the college has formed an “internationalization task force” to answer those questions and deal with emerging issues.
“We know it’s not in the best interests of students, domestic or international, if there’s not the right class mix,” he added.
Coyle said the college has seen “remarkable growth” in the last few years in both domestic and international student numbers.
Okanagan College on Tuesday elected a new chair and vice-chair for the Okanagan College board. Westbank First Nation councillor Chris Derickson and a four-year veteran of the college board was elected as chair.
Gloria Morgan, a former chief of the Splatsin Indian Band from Enderby was acclaimed as vice-chair, according to a press release from Okanagan College.
— This story was updated at 2:50 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018 to include new information about the Okanagan College board elections.
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