Richmond cashing in on exchange student program 0
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Richmond's international student program has exploded in the last decade, taking on more than five times as many students as before and reaping large financial benefits in return.
The city’s school board voted Monday to increase the maximum number of foreign students in the district to 550 from 105 students — and now tuition has been raised to $13,000.
Board chairwoman Donna Sargent said the numbers have been growing steadily — with the majority arriving from China — and future expansion is likely to continue. The district expects its exchange program revenues to rise according to the population increase, estimating profits to grow by an additional $1.22 million by 2015. Last year, the entire program made $1.87 million.
The board’s decision, however, comes at a time when Richmond is experiencing declining school enrolment citywide, which has raised some concerns of potential program and staffing cuts.
Sargent admits the program has been profitable, but added it’s not something the school board relies on, citing other benefits such as generating closer ties with foreign countries.
Richard Hudson, director of international programs at Richmond School District, said incoming international students might fill that student-shortage gap.
Despite the increase, demand continues to outstrip available spaces, he said, especially in the growing number of short-term exchange students who come to get a “taste” of the system before returning home.
The vast majority of incoming students, however, are secondary school children who come to Canada to study until graduation.
“That’s a long-term student,” Hudson said. “Those students, when they come in, pay a tuition fee ($13,000 beginning this fall) and schools are staffed accordingly to support those kids, whether it’s ESL, counselling, administration or teachers.”
In addition to China, growing numbers of exchange students continue to arrive from Mexico, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Venezuela and Germany.
The district also sends its own kids, more than 200 students and accompanying adults, on exchanges to Shenzhen in China, where most stay for about a month.