Coast Mountain College (CMTN) is anticipating 195 international students will enrol at its Terrace campus this fall, along with approximately 36 in Smithers and 64 in Prince Rupert.
This is a sizable increase for CMTN’s international program since it started in 2016, when the college had less than five global students on the Terrace campus. CMTN developed the program with the Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training to create a “balanced approach” to international education.
“We’re really quite new to the international program here,” said Sarah Zimmerman, CMTN spokesperson. “It’s an exciting opportunity for our staff and our students.”
International students made up six per cent of the college’s student body in the 2017-2018 academic year. The program has among the fewest number of international students when compared to other colleges of similar size in northern B.C., who have between 750 to more than 1000 students from around the globe attend, according to Zimmerman.
She said acquiring more students from outside the region can help create more opportunities for local students to study at CMTN in their respective regions and hometowns. It also helps to ensure the viability of the courses offered by supplementing lacking registration numbers with students that aren’t local.
“It’s helping us build capacity for the programs we have right now,” she said. “If we had a course where there were only five or six domestic students who wanted that course, that might not be enough students to run a course. But if we have another six or seven, or ten or fifteen students from the rest of B.C., Canada or internationally, that builds the capacity to ensure we can run courses for our domestic students.”
According to the Ministry of Education, the number of students going through the K-12 system in Coast Mountain School District 82 (Terrace, Kitimat, Hazelton) has declined by 32 per cent over the last 14 years, from 6,235 in 2004-2005 to 4,228 in the 2016-2017. School Districts 52 (Prince Rupert) and 54 (Bulkley Valley) also saw decreases between 25-30 per cent over the same time period.
Fewer local students coming out of local high schools means fewer eligible applicants for college. Zimmerman said CMTN needed to start recruiting graduates from outside the region to keep some courses viable.
“It all goes back to not having as many students registering in our local area due to the demographic decline, that’s one of the big reasons. We had to close the Houston campus a couple years ago because there just wasn’t enough demand in that community to keep the doors open, and we don’t want to continue doing that.”
Recruiting students from outside the northwest has allowed CMTN to maintain their current programs while offering some new ones. The Prince Rupert campus was able to offer a full suite of business and Applied Coastal Ecology courses, something the college wasn’t always able to do before. The Smithers campus was also able to offer a Business Administration and Post-Degree business program for the first time.
“That’s the real benefit for us,” said Zimmerman. She also noted that incorporating more students from outside the region encourages more cross-cultural learning on campus.
Zimmerman said the college is “quite pleased” with their results so far, and is working on growing the program at a rate where it can ensure appropriate supports are in place for staff, faculty and students as it develops. A cap has also been set for international students looking to enrol to make sure the college is taking a balanced approach when admitting students from outside the northwest.