Like many students, Namika Sakai enjoys hanging out with friends, works hard in her classes and worries about her grades. But, similar to the 124 other international students enrolled at Clark College this quarter, Sakai finds her life to be quite different from that of the average American student as she faces the challenges of finding places to live and work that are unique to international students.
Clark’s international students are required to enroll in three consecutive 12-credit quarters and must also prove that they have enough money to live in the United States while attending school. With tuition for international students being almost triple that of in-state residents, this means having almost $20,000 readily available to cover health insurance, books and supplies, housing, meals and other expenses, according to the Office of International Programs. Few scholarships are available and international students can’t legally work outside the college.
The growing competition for rental housing is likely to drive those costs even higher. In September 2015, ApartmentList.com, a non-profit apartment aggregator, reported that Vancouver, with a 14.3 percent increase in the median two-bedroom rent, has had the largest increase in rent prices year-over-year in the nation. A two-bedroom apartment in Vancouver now costs about $1,050, according to the site.
Beginning next spring, Clark international students will have the option of renting an apartment within walking distance of the college, said Elie Kassab, CEO of Prestige Development, a Vancouver-based development firm that aims “to provide services for underserved communities.” With construction set to begin this May, Prestige Development is working on a two-building project entitled “Our Heroes Place” at the southwest corner of the intersection of Mill Plain Boulevard and Interstate 5 that will be feature 25 apartments available to everyone, including international students.
When renting an apartment, students are usually required to show specific documentation, such as proof of income and a credit score, which international students don’t always have. That is why Kassab is creating a place for international students to live and study without requiring the typical documentation. Kassab is planning to test this program with a few Clark students to see how it goes.