North Island College will be increasing the number of international students at its Port Alberni campus with an expanded Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) program.
Mark Herringer, the executive director of NIC’s International Education department, was in Port Alberni city council chambers on Tuesday, May 21 to explain how NIC is pursuing international education as one of its top priorities. Bringing international students to smaller college campuses, he said, has a number of economic benefits, as well as long-term benefits through immigration.
“Colleges have become the preferred destination of choice for international students…far surpassing universities,” said Herringer. “This is then a new tool for distribution of potential immigrants to smaller communities, like Port Alberni. The key will be how communities…respond to this opportunity.”
NIC has already increased the number of international students in the Comox Valley—from 177 students in 2015 to 552 students in 2019—and Campbell River—from eight international students in 2015 to 89 in 2019. The process looks slightly different on each campus, explained Herringer, based on the community and the type of programming available at the campus.
Port Alberni had seven international students in January 2019. Herringer is hoping to change this number to 20-25 over the next year.
Starting in August of this year, 17-20 international students from India will be arriving in Port Alberni on a contracted basis in the Early Childhood Education and Care program. Short and long-term accommodation options for the students will be contracted through Canada Homestay Network. Students will also be doing 19 full-time weeks of internship in the community as part of the program.
Councillor Debbie Haggard pointed out that immigrants often migrate to larger urban areas because of the support systems available to them. “How can a smaller community try and mitigate this concern?” she asked.
Herringer said that the contract was chosen because there is a strong Indo-Canadian community in the Alberni Valley. He plans to meet with the local Sikh community in the coming months to work out a plan.
“What we found when we decided to put the program in Campbell River is that the local community was very interested in supporting the students when they came in,” he said. “We’re anticipating the same thing in Alberni.”
Councillor Cindy Solda, whose son studied out of country, had some concerns about balancing international students with domestic students.
Herringer pointed out that the second year of the program would not run without international students, due to low registration. Previously, the Port Alberni campus was only able to offer one year of the ECCE program, with the second year online. Because of the increased registration from international students, Port Alberni will be able to expand the program and offer a second year.
“The province has regulations that we need to follow that requires us to not displace Canadian students,” he added. “Most of our international student programming leverages programming…for more Canadian students to participate. We’re filling in space that would otherwise not be filled. There is no displacement of Canadian students in our program.”