Fort St. John international students concerned over express entry

UPDATE: This article has been amended to include and clarify student concerns over express entry. FORT ST. JOH…

UPDATE: This article has been amended to include and clarify student concerns over express entry.

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – International students studying at Northern Lights College in Fort St. John say they want to see a provincial nominee program for students seeking to study and become permanent residents post-graduation.

Alan Yu, founder and chairman for the Barangay Fort St. John Society, called a meeting with MLA Dan Davies on March 11, and says the intention was not to call attention to tuition fees, but the difficulty faced by students seeking permanent residency in Canada.

“The point of the meeting was to look at the pathway for international students seeking permanent residency because it’s getting more difficult as time passes,” he said, noting nearly 780,000 migrant student workers will be affected by cuts to the express entry system.

He added that entry limits have been slashed from 110,500 spots in 2022 to only 55,900. The target for 2023 is now 75,750.

Philippines-born student Katrina Kabamalan and her cohorts, Rebecca Christopher from Sri Lanka, and Joshua Ling-Choung from Trinidad, met with Davies to talk about their experiences coming to Canada to study.

Kabamalan says Canada became her first choice to pursue a Master’s degree in information technology after learning she could apply for a post-graduation work permit for up to three years, and intended to become a permanent resident.

“I wanted the better education that this country can offer, but we’re expected to go back home. There’s a part of us that wants to stay here,” Kabamalan said. “I can say that the quality of life here is much better than being back home, so that’s something that the majority of international students are really targeting.”

Yu called last week’s meeting as part of a welcoming committee for international students. He said many already hold degrees from their home countries.

He met again with Davies on Wednesday to discuss a proposal for a provincial nominee program for international students as a pathway to permanent residency.

“For the average citizen of a country, it’s very difficult. The financial demands of being an international student are staggering,” he said. “We want some changes to policies and regulations that will make life easier for international students.”

Davies welcomed the trio of students to Fort St. John and the North Peace, and said he would bring their concerns to the legislature.

International students coming to study in Canada can expect to pay tuition fees roughly four to five times higher than those for domestic students.

In 2021, undergraduate fees averaged $6,693 for Canadians and $33,623 for their international counterparts, according to Statistics Canada. Graduate fees averaged $7,472 for Canadians, and $20,120 for international students.

At NLC, domestic students can expect to pay $114.75 per academic credit, while international students pay $359 per credit. Fees for trades and apprenticeship programs, career and college prep, and practical nursing are also more than double the cost for international students.

Scott Clerk, Director of International Education at Northern Lights College, says the school remains the most affordable in the province, noting international students can expect to pay roughly 40 to 50% more at larger institutions, or $10,800 for a full academic year at NLC compared to $18,000 elsewhere.

“Recruiting students from around the world takes time and effort and there’s some level of competition because students can choose from over literally a hundred different colleges and institutions across Canada,” he said.

He added the college is funded by the province, subsidizing education for domestic students in the communities they serve.

“The funding we receive from the B.C. government is not earmarked to fund the education of international students,” said Clerk. “International students pay more because the government is not subsidizing their education like we do for local students. And so the cost that is charged is what’s called ‘full-freight’, non-subsidized by the government and meant to reflect the true cost of teaching and being at the college.”

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