Domestic students take back seat to international students

With tuition repealed on EAP courses, instructors fear long waitlists will deter domestic students

Christine Beyleveldt // News Editor

When he retired in January after 10 years of teaching at Capilano University, English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and Business Communication instructor Christian Steckler left behind a $20,000 endowment fund that was meant to help subsidize the education of one domestic student each year.

Following a BC NDP ruling earlier this year, tuition was removed from all English Language Learning (ELL) courses province-wide, and domestic students in the EAP program fell under that banner. Now, with the exception of EAP 100 and 101, all other courses in the program are free for domestic students, something Steckler believes to be wonderful.

EAP is run differently than other programs at CapU. Most programs are funded by the provincial government and from tuition.

EAP relies heavily on tuition fees paid by international students, who normally comprise about 75 per cent of the student body in the program, to pay for classes to run. Some of the programs’ instructors who would like to see more domestic students afforded the opportunity to enrol are concerned because international students who pay much higher fees are given precedence for most courses. Domestic students often find themselves waitlisted after they apply for EAP.

“They’re the ones who are paying the taxes for the University and they’re being denied,” Steckler said. In the past few years, there has also been a rapid increase in the number of international students enrolling, and if they’ve paid for study permits they should have a spot in classrooms. Steckler noted that two thirds of a class must consist of international students, specifically so that the remaining spots can be made available to domestic students, many of whom are immigrants.

“I thought I would get at least one immigrant student in there to help them out in their journey to self-sufficiency in a new country,” Steckler added. “Also another reason is that tuitions in the province are too high. We have had a provincial government for 16 years that decided to give university students loans not grants, and loans were encumbered with the highest interest rate.”

Previously, instructor Corey Muench noted, there were several part-time course offerings in the EAP program that would be filled with domestic students, while international students filled full-time classes. By around 2012, part-time courses ceased being offered. The University explained that the program was barely reaching its target income to allow part-time courses to continue. With tuition recently removed, a higher number of domestic students are anticipated to enrol, Muench said that they are currently discussing the possibility of bringing back two part- time courses to create more space for domestic students in the program.

The idea wasn’t to move domestic students into CapU’s academic programs right away, rather students would move into full-time courses to improve their English skills before advancing.

In the last few years, waitlists have shortened, but since tuition has dropped, instructor Maggie Reagh expects they’ll fill up again. During Steckler’s time at the University before tuition was re- introduced on ESL courses by the BC Liberals in 2015, he said some students waited over a year to be accepted after applying for courses.

Reagh fears that if the number of students applying gets to be too high, students won’t be able to continue in the program. “My wish would be – and I know Christian would say the same – that once we let a domestic student in we could keep them in the program and let it be a priority not to have their studies interrupted by lack of funding,” she commented.

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