Valley population growth keeps enrollment climbing at Okanagan College

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OKANAGAN - Continued robust enrollment at Okanagan College is reflective of population growth in the valley but also shows the rest of the world is starting realize the institution exists.

“As the world discovers the Okanagan, many more people want to come here to experience the lifestyle,” vice-president Andrew Hay said, of the latest registration numbers showing a 4.6 per cent enrollment increase over last year.

Underpinning that is regional population growth, Hay adds.

“More than anything, it is population growth, especially in places like Kelowna and West Kelowna,” he said. "This is considered really good growth. We’ve more than exceded government targets and it’s been stronger than we’ve been predicting"

The college confirmed 8,463 full and part time students for Sept. 15, known as the stable enrollment date, compared to 8,089 on the same day last year, Hay says.

Within that number, international enrollment has also surged 29 per cent over last year with 878 foreign students attending this fall.

Hay says student numbers were up in Kelowna, Penticton and Salmon Arm campuses but flat in Vernon.

With that success comes challenges and Hay said classes are being scheduled into the evening and on weekends to meet the demand on limited space.

“It is certainly putting pressure on the institution,” he said.

While the college has seen several new buildings go up in recent years, including health sciences under construction at the Kelowna campus, Hay said most of them were replacement buildings not designed to accommodate enrollment growth. He's heard no word about possible future construction.

“In the short run, in the next few years, we’re OK, but after that we could run into problems,” he said.


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