The number of international students at Bay schools has nearly doubled in two years, with another big influx expected next year.
Despite adding numbers to already-overflowing schools, education leaders are welcoming the students because their fees help to build new facilities and expose young New Zealanders to foreign cultures.
The number of equivalent full-time students in the Western Bay was estimated to have hit 1550 within the past two months, pumping more than $40 million a year into the local economy.
This was an 80 per cent increase on the 858 students who were studying in the Bay in March 2014.
Education Tauranga regional manager Anne Young said the growth had occurred in all sectors of the industry, but especially in primary schools and at private training establishments.
She said primary school students brought a lot of money into the Bay because those aged under 11 were required to come with a parent. Foreign student growth had created jobs, and student fees had been spent on improving resources and services in schools.
This had been "extremely positive for all schools and our economy", Mrs Young said.
Her organisation was targeting China, Thailand and Latin America as part of a plan to boost student numbers by 35 per cent in the next five years.
Toi-Ohomai Institute of Technology communications adviser Marisa Balle said foreign students built relationships with locals that had long-term benefits. Some settled here, contributing to growth and cultural diversity.
The equivalent full-time student number at the institute's Tauranga branch had growth from 78 last year to 169 this year - an increase of 116 per cent.
In Rotorua, the number had grown from 960 to 1100 in the same period of time, a rise of 15 per cent.
Schools are able to choose whether or not to take international students.
At least 41 Tauranga and Western Bay institutions have opted to do so, with primary schools charging $12,000 or more a year.
They must pay a percentage to agents and promoters, but are able to keep the rest.
Several school principals told the Bay of Plenty Times that foreign students were valuable culturally and financially.
Otumoetai College principal Dave Randell said foreign fees helped pay for upgrades that allowed the school to cater for 2000-plus students, despite having been built for just 1800.
"We've built some classrooms out of international money," he said.
Greenpark School principal Graeme Lind said his school had built four new learning centres with money from international fees.
Demographic figures show that 98 per cent of foreign students at Bay primary schools are Korean.
At high school level, the mix changes to Koreans and Germans.
At tertiary level, Indians have a strong presence.
The cultural mix at some schools is also being changed by migration.
Matua Primary School acting principal Craig Wallis said the number of Maori students at his school had increased from 28 last year to 35 this year.
Some of the change was due to Aucklanders migrating south.