TRAVERSE CITY In the not-so-long ago recession, jobless people signed up by the hundreds at Northwestern Michigan College to sharpen their skills or change careers.
The economy is back in gear, so NMC’s student numbers are stagnating, and dropped to 4,847 this fall from NMC’s record enrollment high of 5,440 from the 2010-11 school year.
Now NMC is looking to distant lands to bolster enrollment, and hopes to add 500 out-of-state and international students within five years. College officials set a goal of 5 percent for international students, which now stands at .4 percent . That would equate to about 250 students, an ambitious increase over the 21 foreign students enrolled now.
"We want to offer our students an international experience," said Lindsey Dickinson, NMC's international recruiter and adviser. "If someone can't study abroad, the biggest way they can learn about other cultures is to sit by a student from Afghanistan or Pakistan and learn about their contemporary, ethical dilemmas."
Traverse City Area Public Schools, meanwhile, intends to enroll up to 200 Chinese students in the coming years, building numbers gradually through a partnership with Weiming Education Group, a large Chinese private school.
NMC hopes a good share of those high school students will go on to NMC, Dickinson said.
The foreign influx will mean significant revenues for the high school and NMC. Weiming will pay $10,000 a student, and TCAPS will receive an additional $7,000 for junior students. NMC charges more than double tuition for international students compared to Grand Traverse County residents.
NMC hopes to draw faraway students with its specialty programs, such as aviation, robotics and water studies. It will amp up marketing efforts and expand on its seven foreign university partnerships.
The majority of foreign aviation students come from the United Kingdom, but hail from all over the world, said Steve Ursell, who heads the international aviation program