International education has been a big – and financially beneficial – topic at St. Clair for the last half-decade, as the school’s enrolment has skyrocketed as thousands of global scholars have found their way to the college during that period.
On August 22, the “geographical reverse” of that trend was spotlighted on campus, when the federal government used the Student Life Centre for a public announcement of a new program to encourage Canadian students to study abroad.
Announcing the preliminary details of the Outbound Student Mobility program was Omar Alghabra, Liberal MP for Mississauga Centre, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade Diversification.
St. Clair President Patti France noted that the college’s international enrolment has multiplied ten-fold during the past half-decade – to the point that, this fall, approximately 4,000 students from over 60 nations will account for about one-third of the school’s total population.
On the flip-side of that coin, however, she noted that only a couple dozen Canadian/domestic St. Clair students/grads per year (maximum) seem to take advantage of study-abroad opportunities, including credit-transfer agreements that the college has negotiated with colleges and universities in the United States, Ireland and Australia.
That scenario is not unique to St. Clair, noted Alghabra. Nation-wide, he said, only about 11 percent of Canadian students ever pursue postsecondary opportunities in other countries.
That is one of the lowest “academic migration” rates among developed countries, he added. Several European nations see almost 30 percent of their postsecondary students enrolled in other countries' colleges and universities. Almost 20 percent of Australians study abroad, and 16 percent of American students head overseas at some point in their educational careers.
To remedy Canada’s low participation rate in “educational globe-trotting”, the federal government is developing the four-year-long Outbound Student Mobility program.
It will commit $95 million to bankroll study/work-abroad opportunities for 11,000 Canadian students – which translates into grants of approximately $8,600 each (on average), to offset tuition, lodging and travel costs.
This is part of the federal budget’s allocation of $148 million to foster international education in general – “incoming” and “outgoing” – as part of the so-called “Building on Success: International Education Strategy, 2019-24”.
Although open to all, the new program will concentrate on providing such opportunities to students of under-represented educational sectors, including the disabled, indigineous, and first-generation postsecondary enrollees.
The precise details and procedures entailed in the program have not yet been determined, Alghabra noted. The government is still working with various stakeholders, including college and university administrations, to hammer out details. Ultimately, he said, applications for the Outbound Student Mobility program would flow through federal employment and labour offices.
So, why was the announcement coming from the Ministry of International Trade Diversification? That doesn’t sound like a governmental agency that has much to do with education.
Education, Alghabra emphasized, plays a role in international trade because it is both a commodity and a tool.
It is a commodity because students spend money in, and contribute to the economy of, their host-countries.
And it is a tool because internationally trained students acquire unique knowledge, skills, perspectives, experiences, and connections and contacts that qualify them to bolster Canada’s role in the global economy.
“One in six (Canadian) jobs are related to trade,” he noted. So, trade – and international education as a component of trade – are "tied to Canada’s prosperity and its social fabric."
Endorsing that viewpoint was St. Clair graduate Colin Topliffe. After completing his college diploma program in Business, he secured his degree with a follow-up year of study at a university in Ireland, thanks to a credit-transfer agreement between that school and the college. (For a list of international schools with which St. Clair has such agreements, see http://www.stclaircollege.ca/programs/postsec/transferagreements/.)
He called his Irish experience “life-changing”, both personally and professionally.
He noted, also, that even prior to the introduction of the new federal program, some government assistance was available to him when he pursued his enrolment abroad.