No room at UFV for more international students

Without more B.C. government funding, UFV won’t be able to increase its international student enrolment, part of the job creation plan unveiled by Premier Christy Clark last week.

Without more B.C. government funding, UFV won’t be able to increase its international student enrolment, part of the job creation plan unveiled by Premier Christy Clark last week.

“We’re very pleased the Premier recognizes the value independent students bring to B.C.,” UFV’s vice-president academic Eric Davis said.

But last year UFV’s total student population exceeded funding – less than 50 per cent of which comes from the government – by four per cent.

And it’s been that way for more than a decade.

“We don’t have room to grow international student (numbers),” Davis said.

“Our buildings and classrooms are full, we’ve run out of space.”

Ironically, it’s the tuition paid by international students at UFV – more than twice that paid by domestic students – that opens up classroom spaces for local students.

Davis suggested UFV has a “very strong case” for more government funding because it serves “the fastest growing region” in B.C.

The physical capacity of B.C.’s universities to handle the 50 per cent increase in international students over the next four years is also a concern of the B.C. Research Universities’ Council.

B.C.’s current international student population of 94,000 – 850 of whom are enrolled at UFV – has led to the creation of 22,000 jobs and contributed $1.25 billion to the B.C. economy, according to a government news release.

Each 10 per cent increase in international students equals 1,800 new jobs and a $100-million boost to the provincial Gross Domestic Product, according to the release.

Earlier this year, UFV president Mark Evered told the Chilliwack Chamber of Commerce that each international student, most of whom attend classes at the Abbotsford campus, spends about $40,000 a year, $13,000 on tuition and the rest on accommodation, food, clothing, cars and family visits.

“Let’s be frank, these are not poor students,” he said.

Programs for international students are being developed for UFV’s new $40-million campus in Chilliwack, he said, which is still under construction.

Davis said UFV’s mandate is to serve local needs first, so no domestic students are displaced by international students.

“They bring a huge kick to the economy,” he agreed, and enhance the learning experience at UFV.

“We want our students to be global citizens,” he said. “If they don’t go abroad, we’ll bring the abroad to them.”

Many international students remain in B.C., he added, and start up their own businesses, which creates jobs and boosts immigration numbers needed as the “boomer” generation retires.

The Premier’s “Canada Starts Here” job plan focuses on B.C.’s proximity to expanding markets in China and India, increasing capacity of provincial ports and decreasing the time it takes businesses wanting to invest in natural resource development.

It also includes a $3-million boost to the $30-million small business venture capital tax credit to attract new investors, and extending a $31-million apprenticeship tax credit program for another three years to give employers more time to hire and train skilled workers.

“We are building on our position of strength and never has this been more important than now, given the global economic uncertainty we are facing,” Clark said.

rfreeman@theprogress.com

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