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Foreign students on the rise at Loyalist College in Belleville

Loyalist now has an international co-ordinator who helps students with everything from adjusting to cultural differences to finding housing. Global News

Colleges and universities across the province and even the country are taking on more international students.

Loyalist College has roughly 3,000 full-time students and about one-sixth of them come from other countries, marking a dramatic increase from three years ago.

READ MORE: International students in New Brunswick to receive Medicare coverage

Loyalist College president Ann Marie Vaughan says there were only 85 foreign students in 2015.

“It really speaks to Canada becoming more of a destination for international students generally, Ontario also, and then Loyalist being a benefactor of that as well.”

Rami El Masri came to Belleville from Lebanon and seems to back up what the college president says.

Already a university graduate, he enrolled in the school’s animation program.

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After being laid off from one career, he wanted an education that offered him versatility. He says Loyalist’s program offers that.

“It’s designed in a way that opens up a lot of options for you later on,” he said.

Vaughan says Canadian students benefit from the international mix in the student population, adding that exposure to different cultures is an asset in a global economy.

“The better they will be as citizens and the better they will be in the job market.”

Post-secondary institutions are also seeking out international students for very practical reasons. Vaughan says the number of students in kindergarten right through to Grade 12 is shrinking in Canada.

READ MORE: Canadian high schools see spike in international students, boards say

Maintaining the education system requires stability, and even growth in the student body.

Tuition for domestic students is just under $3,000 a year at Loyalist, but for international students, it’s $13,000.

Vaughan says money isn’t the only reason the college recruits international students but it is a factor.

“I wouldn’t want to leave the impression that that’s not important, but at the end of the day, this really has to be about the educational experience, that’s why we’re in public education and we have to think about the value to the entire student population.”

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Some international students may stay after graduating. Another consideration is growing the population and ensuring there are qualified people to fill jobs.

Mariia Khanenko is a first-year journalism student from Ukraine. She says she’s still figuring out what’s next after graduating but remaining in Canada is an option she’s examining.

“I have no idea where life will take me in a year, maybe I’ll stay in Canada, maybe I’ll go back to Ukraine, it’s a decision for later. I would like to stay here, I really like it.”

A greater international student population also means post-secondary institutions are having to adapt.

Loyalist now has an international co-ordinator who helps students with everything from adjusting to cultural differences to finding housing.

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