If you walk through the halls of the University of Regina, nearly one in seven students you pass will be from a country other than Canada.
Each of those international students pays three times the tuition a student from Saskatchewan pays, which translates into approximately $24.5 million a year for the university — more than 10 per cent of its total $216-million operating budget.
“We have less budget to work, we have less funding, so this contribution of international students is important to the sustainability of the university,” said Livia Castellanos, vice-president (international) at the U of R.
International students make up 14 per cent of the University of Regina’s student population.
According to Castellanos, of the 1,600 international students at the university, 490 are from China, making them the largest group of international students at the U of R.
‘This contribution of international students is important to the sustainability of the university.’
– Livia Castellanos, University of Regina vice-president (international)
But over the past few years, the university has seen a big jump in the number of students from India — a trend Castellanos attributes in big part to Saskatchewan immigration. There are now 250 students from India at the U of R.
“There are a lot of new Indian families immigrating to Saskatchewan and those families are attracting friends, family and neighbours who are in India and want to arrive to our province and enrol as international students,” she said.
Recruitment efforts focused on farming areas
In addition to counting on word-of-mouth recommendations from recent immigrants, the university also targets recruitment efforts by interviewing international students to find out where they are from and why they chose to come to Regina.
Castellanos’s department spends between $100,000 and $150,000 a year on recruitment trips overseas. Many of these trips are part of larger Government of Canada-organized fairs where representatives from universities across Canada can meet students who are interested in studying in Canada, and their parents.
The U of R also currently has recruiters in India, China and South Africa.
Castellanos told CBC Radio’s The Morning Edition her recruiters do not target students in large urban centres.
“Students from Delhi or Beijing are not inclined to come to cities like Regina,” she said. “We go to more of the farming areas in India. The culture and the mindset about population and fields and open spaces is different than people who live in Delhi.”
She acknowledged education is fairly similar across Canada but said what sets Regina apart is the additional supports her office provides students with help getting work permits and finding employment.
“I think the quality of life people in Saskatchewan have really sets us apart,” said Castellanos, who herself came to Regina as an international student from Mexico following her older sister’s Rotary exchange at a Regina high school.
Castellanos said the world has changed dramatically since she started in her role at the university in 2010 and recruitment efforts can change based on world events.
She pointed, for example, to Mexican/Canadian relations being invigorated by Justin Trudeau and what she called the “Trump Factor,” saying such developments create recruitment opportunities for the University of Regina.