International student program planning for high enrolment, summer program

International program grows

SD73 is projecting a high number of international students to visit the district over the upcoming school year as the program plans for high enrolment, diversified recruitment and more educational support.

The district’s international student program hosted a total of 275 students from 25 different countries, 204 of which studied as full-time students.

During the May 29 board of education meeting, Kent Brewer, district principal of international education, said the program is projecting more international students to flood halls in SD73.

“Last year we projected 165 students, we did manage to exceed 200,” said Brewer.

“Next year we're going to conservatively but more aggressively project the 190 FTE, which I think is a very reasonable realistic number that we can achieve. I love that 200 number, that’s my personal goal.”

The program has capacity for around 200 students, limited by the number of homestay families and school capacity — which varies by area.

“Certainly during the pandemic, we saw a drop in homestay families interested in hosting students. I'm confident and optimistic that we're starting to see an improvement in this, but certainly we still have some fallout from that situation,” said Brewer.

Brewer said that the Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops Blazers and NorthPaws homestay programs all require homes, making it difficult to find new spaces for students.

Brewer said he was personally most proud of the variety of countries that students visited from, as drawing the majority of students from a single country can put the program more at-risk.

“One bad decision from that country, and their international students program is shut down,” said Brewer.

“But certainly, the hard work and effort to have a super diverse program — and I think we have over 300 agents that we work with — as much as that does take a lot of extra effort, [it] is well worth it in my mind.”

He said international students most often arrive from China, Germany, Taiwan, Japan and Brazil.

Brewer said the program is always looking to diversify where they recruit from, and are looking to invest in new markets next year.

“We closely watch study permits, how many are granted from each country, do seminars with some of the international organizations,” said Brewer. “We’re going to invest next year looking at Africa, Chile, Colombia and Thailand as really some emerging markets.”

Financial results for the program over the last five years show that revenue has been growing steadily, predicted to bring in over $5 million in 2023-24.

Revenue growth has been attributed to an increase in the number of students and “modest” fee increases.

Brewer said more staffing has been added over the past year as the program continues to grow.

“We've had a real need to put that additional support in, which ultimately benefits kids,” he said.

The program is also looking to provide continued English language learner support for graduating students.

“We also, this year, increased our ELL teacher support time, so he was able to pay weekly get into each school [and] provide students with additional ELL support,” Brewer said. “We do really target the graduating students to ensure that they're on track to graduate.”

Brewer said that the international student program had a seemingly impossible 117 per cent graduation rate.

“We had a number of students arrive who realized once they were here with their previous courses and transcript that they would be able to graduate with a B.C. diploma in one year,” said Brewer.

“So we we were able to switch them to a graduation program, which is excellent.”

Another objective of the program is to create a summer school program.

A summer school pilot program will be occurring this summer as 60 students from Taiwan are coming to participate in classes and summer activities on July 4.

“The primary job is to create this and develop what it's going to look like with those supports,” said Brewer.

“Just the timing of it was new for us. So it's been a bit of a learning experience, but we're certainly excited to launch it and we're looking to refine it after this year.”

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