The future of education has arrived in the Okanagan Skaha School District. The spectre of looming deficits is bringing an addition to the traditional educational hallmarks of reading, writing and arithmetic: revenue.
The local school board moved forward with a plan this week to bolster its budget by attracting more international students to South Okanagan schools.
The students who attended school in the area for a full year would pay $12,000 tuition, almost double the $6,784 the district receives from the Ministry of Education for domestic students. Once medical insurance and room and board are brought into the equation, an international student would be looking at a bill of $20,900 for a full year of studies.
The concept of using international students to bolster revenue isn’t new for B.C. school districts. And it’s becoming an issue school boards can no longer afford to ignore. Okanagan Skaha trustees are hoping to model the program after one in the Vernon School District, where about 200 international students attend class.
Attracting 200 international students to Okanagan Skaha would add about $2.4 million to local coffers, accounting for more than four per cent of the district’s $57 million operating budget for 2013.
However, the influx of international students won’t come without a cost. Aside from the basic cost of education, the international students are likely to require some additional focus for issues such as English-as-a-second-language classes. It will be up to the school district to provide adequate resources and staffing levels to prevent the other students from being shortchanged.
While an influx of international students is bound to create a few ripples in the local education system, the district cannot afford to allow scarce educational resources to head down the road.