Economic impact of international students in local colleges

There may be no new international students at local schools in 2021.

Work with the region’s economic development agency ATEED and the Ministry of Education to bring in international students across the border in December 2020 has ground to a halt.

With people returning from overseas testing positive at the border, no one is prepared to risk institutions running their own quarantine systems, says Steven Hargreaves, principal of Macleans College and president of the Auckland Secondary Schools Principals Association (ASSPA).

Hargreaves is concerned about the financial implications this will have on high-decile schools like Macleans College that rely heavily on international student fees to make up a shortfall in Government funding.

Macleans College International students with principal Steven Hargreaves. Photo supplied

He says the lack of international students is a huge issue. The total international student market including universities, schools and techs is about $5.1 billion per year,” Hargreaves says.

Schools represent about $750 million of that, about 15 per cent.

Auckland hosts about 10,000 international school students in schools per year (primary, intermediate and secondary).  That’s about $375 million in GDP for Auckland from school students alone.

 

“At Macleans we have lost about 70 enrolments this year so that is a big financial hit. These students have been unable to enter New Zealand for our term 2 and 3 intake with the closed border.”

Hargreaves says it appears unlikely they will be able to come next year too unless a vaccine is found.

“The 2020 financial impact is about half a million dollars.  The potential impact in 2021 is much greater. If the college doesn’t get international students in 2021, there will have to be big-budget cuts,” he says.

“It will have huge financial implications for schools – staff cuts, deferred maintenance and reduced investment in areas such as IT.

“High decile schools receive a lot less funding per student and we need to generate our own local funding.  Macleans gets $1300 less per student in the operations grant than a decile-one school where I was previously principal,” Hargreaves says.

“We hope most of our current students will stay with us and many have told us that they will.”

Iva Ropati, Principal of Howick College. Photo supplied

Howick College principal Iva Ropati says the college budgeted on enrolling 120 full-time international students this year.  But Covid-19 prevented about 30 students from entering the country.

“This resulted in a $450,000 shortfall of expected income for the year,” says Ropati.

The loss of income is significant and consequently, the college has responded by diversifying their international programmes to cater for more ‘on-line’ learning options.

“Students from Asia are particularly interested in this form of learning and are showing strong interest.

“We have also formed some very useful partnerships with some NZ Universities which may open some further options for remote educational pathways beyond the schooling sector,” says Ropati, who says they have the flexibility in their programmes to adjust for the downturn in the short term.

“Thankfully, our board have a number of staff who are employed on a casual basis depending on the final numbers of international students and therefore can adequately reduce staffing where appropriate.   In the long term, especially if our borders remain closed next year, our emphasis will continue to strengthen our on-line learning options and to be as innovative as possible.”

Pakuranga College principal Michael Williams says the loss of international students will have a big impact not only on the colleges but on the whole community.

Michael Williams with international students at Pakuranga College. Photo supplied

“While schools will have to tighten their belts with fewer international students, those same students also bring income into the economy, with homestays and accommodation for visiting family members.

“At Pakuranga College, we will have to tighten our belts but will be able to continue to provide all the services for our students,” says Williams.

“We will, however, have to slow down on our building and refurbishment projects. Fortunately, we have significant reserves and the new 12 classroom block, to which the school has contributed almost $1m, won’t be affected.”