International students arrive in Smithers. Michael Grace-Dacosta photo

Coast Mountain College international students face challenges of school in BC

Financial issues are the biggest challenge for international students according to a new report.

Last week the BC Federation of Students (BCFS) released a research document on the struggles of international students in British Columbia.

The document said financial issues are the biggest challenge for international students.

The document cited a 2015 survey of over 9,000 international students by the BC Council on Admissions and Transfer that found affordability was the most frequently mentioned challenge.

As previously reported by The Interior News the Smithers campus of Coast Mountain College (CMC), formerly known as Northwest Community College, recently got 30 international students from India.

Although many of the students have jobs, they too experience financial pressure. As a condition of their student visa they can only work 20 hours a week.

“The students realize their parents have sacrificed a lot to have them come here so they want to make as much as they can to help their parents back home,” said CMC student engagement facilitator Richard Joseph. “In some case parents may be using their retirement money to send their kids here. So the kids are feeling that kind of stress.”

The report recommended a cap on annual fee increases on tuition for international students.

Currently there are no caps on tuition increases for international students which allows intuitions to increase fees to any amount at any time without notice according to the report.

Fee increases for domestic students is capped at two per cent.

The total cost of taking the business administration program at CMC for a domestic student is approximately $6,000. An international student taking the same program will pay just over $15,000.

CMC eastern regional director Regina Saimoto said domestic students pay a lower tuition because the cost of their education is subsided by the government. Domestic students only pay a portion of the total cost of their education. The government does not subsidize tuition for international students.

“The money you get from international students basically has to cover the cost of providing them education,” said Saimoto. “So putting a cap on that would have different implications than the two per cent tuition cap on domestic students.”

The BCFS document said the number two concern for international students was difficulty adjusting socially to life in Canada.

The document referenced a 2015 study by the Canadian Bureau for International Education that found international post-secondary students in B.C. do not feel socio-culturally or physically supported by their institutions and cited a lack of a two-way cultural exchange with Canadian students.

Joseph tries to address this issue by organizing different activities for the international students to do such as hikes, lunches at the college with staff and domestic students, ball hockey games at the outdoor rink and installing horseshoe pits near their dorms.

Joseph has also ordered cricket gear for the students to help them feel more at home. Cricket is a national pastime in India.

“I’m really pleased to see how the Smithers campus staff overall has come together to support these 30 students,” said Saimoto. “All of us feel a sense of responsibility and ownership to help the students adjust to life in Canada.”

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