GET DOWN WITH DIVERSITY Michael Ignatieff with international students at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia.
HALIFAX (CUP) — The Atlantic provinces are reconsidering how they accommodate international students after a recent study revealed that those students net the four provinces millions in revenue.
The Economic Impact of Post-secondary International Students in Atlantic Canada report, which was released in late September by the Council of Atlantic Ministers of Education and Training (CAMET), found that international students in Atlantic Canada contributed $565 million to the economy in 2009-10. As much as $175 million of that was new money to the region.
But Citizenship and Immigration Canada says the percentage of students who continue to live in the Atlantic provinces after their studies are completed remains as low as 15.6 per cent.
The study makes suggestions on how the Atlantic provinces can keep their international student population and invest in the students' contribution to the region's labour force and its economy.
The four provinces are working on both joint and separate projects to attract more immigrants to the region, which will help combat the recent challenges the provinces are facing with their aging demographics.
But education and living costs remain unaffordable for most students who come from overseas.
Maik Duering moved to Halifax from Germany in 2007 to enrol in Dalhousie University's co-op commerce program. Based on his parents' income, he was offered no financial help from the provincial government.
"Tuition would cost too much for me as an independent international student without help from my parents," Duering said.
His situation is not uncommon. In a 2008 survey for the Nova Scotia Minister's Postsecondary Education Research Advisory Panel, 58.5 per cent of international student respondents listed their parents as their most important source of funding.
The CAMET report shows average annual spending by international students of up to $29,000 including education, housing, and meals. Their top concerns were tuition, books, and differential fees. Lack of scholarship assistance and opportunities to work off-campus followed close behind.
Yet financial concerns aren't the only thing affecting the lives of international students in Nova Scotia.
Duering wasn't informed in his home country about his options or possible experiences in Atlantic Canada, and suggests that schools like Dalhousie should be aiming to promote themselves better
One way is to have university representatives bring information abroad.