International students enrolment at Lambton College has fallen 38% this year, and just a handful are physically present and taking classes in Canada.
“Most of the new international students studying abroad this term are hoping to travel to Canada for their second or third semester sometime in 2021, once the COVID situation has improved,” said Cindy Buchanan, Lambton’s director of marketing.
Second and third year students were given the option of working remotely from their home countries.
Full-time enrolment of international students has fallen from 1,063 students last year to 654.
And just 31 first-year students are actually in Canada, with most at Lambton’s Toronto affiliate facilities — Cestar College and Queens College.
As a result, just three international students — who all enrolled before March 18 — are attending the Sarnia campus and working remotely from local homes.
International students have a big influence on the community. The influx of young people from India, Mexico, China, Brazil, Jamaica and other countries in recent years has impacted everything from the opening of new restaurants (a half dozen now serve Indian cuisine), to the apartment rental and housing market, to Sarnia Transit bus routes and schedules.
The enrolment crash forced Lambton to suspend 19 programs and courses, Buchanan said.
She said students studying online in their home countries and in Canada meet in an online portal where they can discuss and collaborate with instructors and classmates.
“Everything is remote,” she said.
Foreign students pay heftier tuition than Canadians — an average $14,000 a year according to the Ontario Colleges website.
Last year, Lambton took in twice as much revenue from international students as it did from Canadian students through tuition and government grants.
The financial impact this year will be about $3 million, Buchanan said.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, Lambton shifted to a hybrid learning approach that combines online and classroom training for all new and returning students. They study remotely unless they have labs that require their physical presence.