Richmond Sees Green With International Students

The projected rise of international students in BC through to 2016. BC wants more international students and is actively seeking to expand the multi-billion dollar industry.

The projected rise of international students in BC through to 2016. BC wants more international students and is actively seeking to expand the multi-billion dollar industry.

International education is growing in all facets (public and private) in Richmond and it has a lot to do with the government’s push to increase the revenue of this already multi-million dollar industry.

Foreign students brought in $2.1 billion to BC’s economy in 2012. Chinese students account for about 20 per cent of the 107,000 students from 2012. South Koreans, Japanese and Brazilians rank high as well. Check out more numbers here. By 2016 (see above photo) the province wants 140,000 international students!

The Richmond News has written a  three-story feature on the issue as it pertains to Richmond – a sort of update and look at what’s to come in 2014 and beyond.

The first story looks at Kwantlen Polytechnic College and reveals that the university is aiming to increase its foreign student population ratio from eight to 10 per cent in the coming years. Executives are also pushing hard to map out a plan to build apartment-like residences for students, that will no doubt help house international students.

While KPU’s educators and executives believe students give a new perspective to domestic students they recognize the dollars that these students bring in. However they’re not very willing to admit they’ve become dependent on the funding.

Another bonus according to KPU is that the funds can provide for more classroom space and seats for domestic students.

The question is how much is enough. NDP MLA and education critic David Eby says these programs are being relied on far too much in light of continued lack of funding for post-secondary.

 

The second story, written by myself, looks at the Richmond School District and its potential dependency on international education. As it stands international students account for three per cent of the K-12 student body. They bring in a gross of $10 million for a $190 million overall budget. But as enrolment of domestic students declines (over 400 students in each of the last two years, for example) the ratio of dependency is climbing.

This is nothing new, of course, but it’s a good time to ask these questions. In 2009 the student body was made up of just 1.2 per cent international students. Each year it continues to climb. How much is enough?

It seems Richmond has a fairly sustainable program. What it has working for it is the following, according to its supporters: A large multicultural community (particularly Chinese), its own homestay placement program, and a lot of pre-existing focus on English language learners (28 per cent of the total population) in the classroom.

The Richmond Teachers’ Association is clear about the fact the government is not funding public education enough and acknowledges the school district is doing a good job managing its program but still thinks it needs to stop expanding.

 

In the third story, also written by myself, I look at a proposed development in north Richmond to house international students – most likely from private language colleges. It’s dubbed the Global Education Centre. Basically it’s a hotel (the city says it cannot be residences) with a campus attached to it that will house a number of private post-secondary colleges and language institutions. The company putting together the proposal is CIBT Education Group and Toby Chu is its CEO.

I don’t know if this will fly with Richmond’s city council. It doesn’t appear to be a “hotel” in the typical way we think of it. Chu says the rooms will be small, like micro apartments in Japan or South Korea. There will be two bedrooms with sliding doors in a 450-square foot unit and the kitchens will be basic, likely in the hallway. He also said the furniture will be bare basics and “low-end.”

All this will keep costs down and students can “bunk” in the summer months, Chu said.

My question is, how cheap can you go? If it’s not properly managed I can see it turning into a ghetto in a decade or so.

Chu said there’s a need for housing for international students and current homestay situations often don’t produce ideal or even adequate housing – there are some situations that I call homestay mills, where a person rents out a home to 6-10 international students at one time. Chu says this is hurting the province’s reputation.

The proposed “education super centre” is expected to cost about $120, according to Chu. It’s certainly an interesting development and it will probably need some refinement to go to city council. The demand is certainly there. So is the money; Private language institutions bring in, on average, about $33,000 per year according to the government. That number has probably risen since 2012.