N.W.T. college pauses international intake after deluge of applications

Aurora College isn’t accepting anymore applications from international students after it received hundreds more than usual. The chair of the college’s board of directors says he believes influx of applications is related to an issue with agencies that help students find placements. (Walter Strong/CBC)

Aurora College recent received about 700 applications from overseas

The Northwest Territories’ Aurora College is pausing its acceptance of international students after it received hundreds more applications than usual.

In a Facebook post, the College said any international applications received through its domestic students portal will be declined.

Joseph Handley is the chair of the college’s board of directors. He says that while the college typically accepts three or four international students each year, it recently received about 700 international applicants.

He says he believes the mixup is the result of international agencies that help students find placements directing too many students to apply.

“Somehow that got messed up,” Handley said.

Handley cited basic capacity issues — including housing — as the main reason for pausing applications.

Without citing exact figures, Handley said the Inuvik campus can accommodate around 100 students while the Yellowknife and Fort Smith campuses have more space for students but tighter housing markets, particularly in Yellowknife.

“The economics just aren’t there to build new housing to accommodate foreign students,” he said. “We would want to build housing to accommodate northern students first.”

On a yearly basis Handley guessed that the number of international students that apply is in the one to two hundred range.

“This is exceptional this year,” he said.

Julie Thrasher is a longtime Yellowknife resident, originally from Inuvik. She says that there’s value in sharing knowledge with people from different cultural backgrounds, but that as a limited population with limited resources, prioritizing Northern students is a good idea.

“We need our youth right now to succeed,” she said. “There’s a lot of young people that are struggling right now with addictions and trauma and family breakdown … We need to help them have that step in the door every way that we can.”

Int’l applicants already increasing

Handley said he suspects the rise in international applicants has to do with people seeking to immigrate to Canada.

“Every year there’s an increasing number of people, particularly from South Asia, who are interested in studying here, but also may have other motives of gradually looking for citizenship in Canada and so on,” he said.

He said the college seeks to accept Northerners first, then other Canadians then international students.

He said the college is a way to encourage education, support students who would otherwise move south and may struggle to adjust to a big city and it also supports students staying and working in the North.

“That’s the whole purpose for the investment the government made in Aurora College,” he said.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Post-secondary education offered in Nunavik, Quebec would be a game changer, says school board, Eye on the Arctic

Greenland: Nunavut children’s books translated for circulation in Greenland’s schools, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Sami-led project seeks to revitalize Indigenous education across Arctic Europe, Eye on the Arctic

Russia: Schools in Murmansk, in Arctic Russia, told to teach anti-Ukraine propaganda, The Independent Barents Observer

Natalie Pressman, CBC News

Natalie Pressman is a reporter with CBC North in Yellowknife. She can be reached at natalie.pressman@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @natpressman.

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