Fleming College scrambles for fall students, given nearly one in three were international

By Roderick Benns

Fleming College scrambles for fall students, given nearly one in three were international

Nearly a third of Fleming College’s student body is made up of international students – a large student segment now in jeopardy due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Typically, about 6,800 students are international learners who are willing to pay hefty tuition costs to study at a Canadian post-secondary institution.

For instance, for Fleming’s well-known Fish and Wildlife Technician program, a domestic student would pay $2,085 per semester. An international student must pay $8,147 per semester.

Maureen Adamson, Fleming College president.

Or a Sustainable Agriculture Co-op student who is a Canadian citizen would pay $2,746 per semester. An international student would pay nearly $9,000 per semester.

Fleming College president, Maureen Adamson, says the college is still assessing the fallout but that there’s no doubt the pandemic has hit hard the school’s bottom line hard.

“It’s most definitely had a negative impact.”

While Fleming is moving to offer its programs online this fall, that can’t happen for all programs because of the experiential nature of many of them. For instance, programs that will not run this fall at Lindsay’s Frost Campus alone include:

  • Applied Planning – Environment (scheduled to run winter 2021)
  • Arboriculture co-op (scheduled to run winter 2021)
  • Sustainable Waste Management (scheduled to run winter 2021)
  • Environmental Visual Communication (scheduled to run spring 2021)
  • Sustainable Waste Management (scheduled to run winter 2021)
  • Environmental Technology – (not scheduled to run the 2020/2021 academic year

Nearly one in five students at Frost Campus, specifically, – about 1,700 students — are international. The Advocate wanted to know how many programs simply won’t run for domestic students given there weren’t enough international students.

None were contingent on international students, according to Adamson.

“Our decision-making process is strictly based on safety. It has nothing to do with international vs domestic students,” says the college president.

However, in reviewing data provided by Fleming for the Fall 2018-2019 term, two of those programs show a high number of international students. For instance, in Applied Planning – Environment, 11 of the 22 enrolled were international. And in Sustainable Waste Management a full 17 out of 23 students were international.

Due to years of under funding from government, post-secondary institutions have come to rely on the lucrative practice of offering a high number of spaces to international students.

The Globe and Mail reported this week that international students represent half of all tuition revenue for universities. The impact of the pandemic may be more pronounced for colleges, the Globe notes, since they “tend to offer shorter programs that result in more frequent student turnover.”

International students contribute almost $22-billion a year to the national economy.

Fleming offered various incentives for those who wanted to apply to school – including halving the application fee to $250 from $500.

The college also did active “call campaigns” to drum up interest, according to the school president.

There’s still great interest in Canada from international students, says Adamson, “but they need a study permit.”

“And I’m not sure how many are getting them given the travel restrictions.”

Adamson says that maybe in November, “if there is no drastic COVID wave,” then students may get an increasing number of in-class opportunities on a priority basis. That basically means the programs that are most experiential will be quicker to return to the classroom or field than a more theory-based course.

The Advocate pressed Adamson to comment on a college and university system that relies so heavily on charging a premium for international students for the system’s own financial stability.

“Is it right or is wrong? It’s a supply and demand issue,” she says. “Philosophically it’s all about globalization and having integrated systems and economies. As for how much do we really want to rely on this money…well, that’s a good point.”

Adamson, who has held the position at Fleming for two years, says the province doesn’t have “an endless pit of money, though” so she understands why the system is like it is.

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