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Douglas College is hosting 1,000 international students

Tri-City K-to-12 schools aren't the only game in town when it comes to enrolling international education students.

Tri-City K-to-12 schools aren't the only game in town when it comes to enrolling international education students.

Douglas College is also a major player in the field of international education, boasting a 17% hike this fall in the number of foreign students taking post-secondary courses at the Coquitlam and New Westminster campuses.

This fall, Douglas enrolled 1,000 international students, the same number as School District 43, which is considered one of the most successful international education programs in the province.

President Scott McAlpine attributed the increased enrolment to greater awareness of the college abroad, including an understanding that the college provides "clear learning pathways" for students.

"We are clearly a welcoming institution to international students," McAlpine said, noting that the college was recently recognized with an award for showing leadership in internationalization from the Association of Canadian Community Colleges. Like SD43, the college has an international department that recruits students from abroad and has been targeting China, a major source of students for both.

Partnering with Chinese post-secondary education institutions and enabling students to take dual degrees is another reason for the program's success in Asia, McAlpine said.

According to the college, 49% of its international students are from China with another 16.5% coming from South Korea. But the college is also attracting students from India and South America, and the college would like to expand in those areas.

International students pay five times the tuition fees of domestic students - about $11,460 for 24 credits - and the extra money generated by these fees pays for an additional 375 seats for domestic students, according to McAlpine, adding that the program generates about $11.3 million in revenue and $24.5 million in spinoffs to the B.C. economy.

While they're here, international students have to pay for meals and lodging, and their families often visit. Most make their own private arrangements for apartments but some live in home-stay situations.

They typically don't take a full course load and most are taking business or humanities and social sciences courses, often finishing their degree at Douglas, although many do transfer to other universities.

While the program is lucrative for the college, McAlpine said it's not all about money. Douglas is endeavouring to provide international experiences to all its students by exposing them to students from around the world and giving them opportunities to study abroad themselves. For example, the college's international programs subsidize some of the costs of field schools in Wales, Belize and, in Uganda, a child, family and community studies practicum.

"The point here is international education is creating domestic opportunities and also it's just plain good for Douglas College because our students at Douglas are the ultimate beneficiaries of being exposed to different perspectives and different people."

Overall, Douglas College's enrolment has grown 5% from last year to 10,700 students. It's up almost 12% from 2009 and McAlpine attributed much of the increase to a faltering economy which is encouraging people to return to school to improve their job prospects.

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