Belleville’s Loyalist College is attributing its double-digit growth over the last year to a rising number of international students, who come to the school seeking educational opportunities outside of the big city.
Though the number of Canadian students at Loyalist has remained flat, enrolment at the school is up 14 per cent. Within the last year, the number of international students has jumped from 585 to 814. Loyalist’s overall student population is just under 3,300.
Like many community colleges, Loyalist is always recruiting, says Ann Marie Vaughan, president of the school. However, while major cities like Toronto used to hold the most appeal for international students, many are now looking outside of large metropolitan areas.
Along with a range of study programs, Vaughan believes Loyalist’s Belleville location offers foreign students a good quality of life.
“We’re perfectly centred between Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal,” she said. “It’s a safe location; it’s a small school.”
For Brazilian student Ana Carolina, the quality of life mentioned by Vaughan was part of her decision-making process.
“Now that I’m here, I really want to live in a small city for the rest of my life, close to the big centres,” she said.
Beyond growing the school’s student body, there are also financial reasons for community colleges to seek students from abroad.
Unlike Ontario residents, tuition for foreign students isn’t subsidized by taxpayers. While Ontario students pay between $4,200 and $4,300 per year at Loyalist, tuition for international students is a little less than $15,000 per year.
Once school is out, foreign enrollees could also help to cover job shortages in the local economy. The Conference Board of Canada estimates that Ontario alone will face a shortfall of just over 350,000 workers by 2025, making Canadian-educated international students a valuable human resource for the affected industries.
For some Loyalist students, the prospect of staying in Canada is appealing.
Staphanus Buys is in his third year of civil engineering. He’s originally from South Africa and has family in Prince Edward County. While the student doesn’t know yet what his post-graduation plans will be, Buys says he’s keeping his options open.
“I’d like to have the option (to stay),” he said. “Depends on where I find work and what kind of work.”
Vaughan says international students at Loyalist have traditionally enrolled in skilled trades, engineering and the sciences, however the school is starting to see foreign students enrol in a number of other faculties, such as early childhood education and media programs.