08/26/2015 21:55 EDT | Updated 08/26/2016 01:12 EDT

International students flock to Lower Mainland schools

The number of international students enrolled in Vancouver-area schools has jumped in the last two years, pumping millions into local school boards, according to figures from the B.C. Ministry of Education.

About 8,700 international students, mostly from countries in Asia, enrolled in schools across the region in the last school year of 2014/15, up from about 7,200 enrolled in the previous year.

The most popular B.C city for international students was Vancouver, where 1,511 international students enrolled last year. Those students brought in nearly $20 million in tuition revenue. They each pay about $13,000, on average, in tuition each year.

The number of foreign students enrolled in Vancouver schools will rise this year to about 1,600 students, said Barb Onstad, director of international education at the Vancouver School board. Most are enrolled in high schools, Onstad said.

B.C. schools vie for international students

Across the region, the numbers are also on the rise. At the Coquitlam school board, the number of international students rose from 1,032 in the 2013/14 school year to 1,366 students in 2014/15.

Tuition generates millions in revenue

Because these students generate significant revenue, boards are eager to increase their numbers. In Vancouver, money from foreign tuition has allowed the board to hire 80 teachers, said Onstad.

Parents of international students send their kids here to earn a Canadian high school education and improve their chances of acceptance in post-secondary institutions, Onstad said. Most students come from China and other Asian countries including Korea and Vietnam.

The city of Vancouver is an obvious destination for international students, Onstad said, because its high schools all have English as second language programs.

"Parents have told us that . . .  they see the educational opportunities here as more desirable than what's available in their countries," Onstad said.

However, Vancouver school trustee Patti Bacchus said schools must ensure they can absorb these students before rushing to increase their numbers.

"It's always a pressure and a temptation in a tough budget year to say let's try to get more international students," Bacchus said. "But how do we absorb them and are we maintaining a healthy mix of populations."

Source: B.C. Ministry of Education.

Note: Statistics for Vancouver Island West, Vancouver Island and Stikine school districts were not available.