College scrambles to add courses as international student enrolment jumps

Langara’s summer semester sees ‘higher than anticipated’ increase in students from abroad

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By Erin Conners

Many Langara international students are struggling to register for the courses they need because there aren’t enough seats to keep up with rising enrolment.

Vikram Singh, a first-year history student, said he is taking courses he isn’t interested in because the ones he needs for his program are already full.

“My major’s history, but I don’t have a single history course,” Singh said. “I have to take up subjects like French, which I have no interest in. And it sucks. It really sucks.”

The college asked departments in an email this week to add more sections to courses for the upcoming summer semester because of enrolment by a “higher than anticipated number of international students.” The email was sent April 3 by Margaret Heldman, provost and vice-president, academic, after summer registration had been open for a week.

This summer will be Singh’s second semester, and he still is not taking history classes because of registration backlogs and the limited courses offered in the summer term.

Expectations vs reality

Singh said he was sold a false promise and said that insufficient support from the college makes him feel exploited.

“I was promised one of the best colleges in B.C. area. I was promised that I was going to get courses I was studying. I kind of regret coming here,” Singh said.

“The people are nice, the professors are nice, the students are nice, but the overall management of this college is really bad.”

According to data from the college website, 38 per cent of Langara students are international. The college had 5,140 international students registered in the 2023 spring semester – an 18 per cent increase from spring 2022.

Campus overflowing

In an email to the Voice about the upcoming summer semester, Heldman said the college is “aware that many international students are having challenges finding available space in their desired courses.”

She said 49 new course sections have been added since March 31.

“This semester, in response to the high demand, these extra sections are being made available earlier [than usual],” Heldman said.

Langara requires international students before registering to pay a deposit that is meant to be applied to tuition fees.

A $6,000 deposit is required for newly admitted international students. The deposit includes a $1,500 non-refundable and non-transferrable fee, which must also be paid each subsequent semester.

While tuition fees vary by program, the standard rates see international students paying six times as much as domestic students for first- or second-year courses. Starting May 1, that rate will be $637.91 per credit, while domestic students will be charged $107.62.

Heldman said if international students are unable to get into the courses they need, the college will work with them to find a solution.

“[If that happens]… our international student services team will help students with the deferral process to a future semester. Our immigration consultants can also answer any questions related to concerns over impacts on study permits,” Heldman said. “We have an appeal process for students who request deferrals, and we assess the deposit transfer based on each student’s situation.”

More sections not filling the gap

Niall Christie, a Langara Faculty Association board member and chair of the department of history, Latin and political science, said adding more sections for a course often requires hiring new, temporary instructors, which is difficult when sections are added so close to the start of the term.

“You’ve got a bunch of faculty scrambling or a department chair scrambling to hire faculty to fill those sections,” Christie said.

He said instructors trying to put a course together at the last minute is a stressful experience that could be avoided by the college planning ahead.

“You know, it’s described as an unexpected influx of international students who they weren’t expecting. But I feel like this happens every semester now,” Christie said. “It seems to me that there could be better planning going on.”

Heldman said the college is working on improving its international enrolment estimates and wants to stay at current levels in the future.

“The plan is not to increase the number of international students and we strive to maintain current enrolment.”

With files from Seth Forward.

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