Community colleges offer hands-on practical and technical learning,” explains Gabriela Facchini at Georgian College. “Students learn... from experience and from professionals in their fields of study and leaders in their industries.” Mark Herringer at North Island College, meanwhile, says these institutions are very employment focused, with many programmes offering internships. Furthermore, says Cheryl Webber at College of the Rockies, tuition fees are reasonable, and programme quality is very high due to stringent government regulations.
Northern Lights College (NLC) in Chetwynd, ON, has hosted international students for more than 20 years, says Brad Lyon, and this experience improves the college’s ESL and university transfer courses. “In 2012-13, NLC welcomed its initial intake of students in a new programme designed to serve the needs of international students: a post-degree diploma in Business Management,” he says. “For international students who already hold a degree in commerce or business administration, the post-degree diploma is an effective bridge to further North American business studies or to pursue employment.” Other benefits include small class sizes, he adds.
At Georgian College in Barrie, ON, Facchini is keen to highlight the workplace focus. “Eighty per cent of our programmes have a co-op, internship or a placement. This means our [students] graduate with work experience.” She adds the 86.8 per cent graduate employment rate is above the national average, while the college has articulation and transfer arrangements with 47 institutions worldwide. Furthermore, it was voted first in the world in the 2011 i-graduate International Student Satisfaction Barometer.
Facchini enthuses, “At Georgian, you have the best of both worlds. You can spend the first two or three years experiencing the smaller class, hand-on learning atmosphere of a college while you work and get paid, and then transfer seamlessly to a university around the world to complete a degree. So after investing four years of study, you have a college diploma, a university degree and one year of work experience in your field.”
More students are coming from Ukraine, Russia, India and Latin America, Facchini says. “Students that already have university degrees from their home countries look to Georgian to do a... graduate certificate, so they can study and specialise in their fields for two years…and then apply for a three-year work permit that eventually might qualify them to emigrate to Canada through the Canada Experience Class.”
This is also an increasingly popular option at College of the Rockies in Cranbrook, BC, with the Business Administration and Tourism & Recreation Management programmes seen as particularly attractive, says Cheryl Webber, adding the location in the heart of the Rocky Mountains region is a further incentive to study. The college was ranked top in Canada for student satisfaction in the most recent i-graduate International Student Barometer, says Webber, and living and tuition costs are reasonable. “Very small and interactive classes where the instructors know the students by name [are a further benefit]”, she adds.
“The range of programming available at North Island College (NIC) in Courtenay, BC, at an affordable cost is amazing,” enthuses Herringer. “Besides our own accounting, management and marketing BBAs, we have six post-degree diplomas in business and in tourism, we have adventure guiding certificates, diplomas in hospitality or tourism and postgraduate certificates and diplomas in Global Tourism Management.” As well as university credit transfer programmes to all universities in BC and others in North America, NIC also has guaranteed/dual admission options to several universities.
Herringer observes increasing numbers of North African students, while India and China are rising. “Based on local demand and local government and industry support through scholarships and other incentives, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Brazil should have an impact in the coming years,” he predicts.
In terms of threats to the sector, Facchini says government budget restraints make it difficult for providers to navigate the international stage. An act making it illegal for overseas agents to provide immigration counselling is counterproductive, as complicated visa processes lead to misunderstandings and denied applications, she says. Visas are a perpetual concern, says Herringer, but Canada has made improvements in recent years.
“There is always increased competition for international students, especially during difficult economic times,” observes Webber. “However, we also see many opportunities for colleges like ours which offer reasonable fees, personalised support, work opportunities after graduation and a variety of programmes.” firstname.lastname@example.org
Working with agents
Agents are very much part of the recruitment process in Canada’s community college sector. “We use a variety of recruitment tools and would be happy to work with experienced agents in all markets,” says Cheryl Webber at College of the Rockies in Cranbrook, BC. Mark Herringer at North Island College (NIC) in Courtenay, BC, meanwhile, says “NIC participates in fairs and seminars delivered in partnership with our agents and other organisations”. Agent workshops such as Alphe and word-of-mouth are other methods, he adds.
“Most of our students come through agents,” says Gabriella Facchini at Georgian College in Barrie, ON, adding that if they attend student fairs, they do so with agent partners. “Students that come through agents are better prepared,” she continues. “Agents are able to give the students what they ask for plus all the information they did not think to ask for. This translates into fewer withdrawals for Georgian, as students adapt more quickly.” She adds that agents provide a natural screening process of potential students, and also help build brand awareness of the college.