The college's financial situation and its response to COVID-19 were the most prominent subjects discussed at the meeting. Photo credit: Andrea Sternberg

The college continues to project a $19-million financial deficit, according to the most recent meeting of the Algonquin College board of governors.

Based on discussions at the board meeting, which took place on Feb. 22, 2021, the college expects to increasingly rely on international students to solve its troubled financial situation caused by the pandemic.

The main cause of the financial woes is the decline in student enrolment since the start of the pandemic.

There are currently 14,577 domestic students and 3,367 international students registered at Algonquin College, totalling 17,944 according to the numbers presented by the registrar’s office at the board meeting.

To put that into perspective, in February 2020, the college had 19,759 students according to the minutes of February 2020’s board meeting.

This is compounded by the fact that the college is unable to raise tuition on domestic students, as there is a province-wide tuition freeze that will remain in effect for another year. It is expected that this freeze will end next year, enabling college authorities to increase tuition for domestic students by three per cent between 2022 and 2023.

The board expects the only source of revenue growth to stem from a growth in international student enrolment. The Canadian government’s decision to continue to offer work permits to students learning remotely from outside of Canada means the college expects growth in international enrolment to be greater than expected.

The premium paid by international students is going to grow by one per cent this year, an equivalent of $56.83 per student according to Krista Pearson, the registrar at Algonquin College.

Financial difficulty has affected other sections of the college as well, according to the appendixes of the board meeting’s minutes.

The Food and Conference Services food sales revenue has declined by $3.3 million since the advent of the pandemic.

Residence revenue has declined by $3.2 million due to the decrease in student residence occupancy. The Algonquin College residence is currently only at 45 per cent of its normal capacity.

The Algonquin College bookstore revenue declined by $387,000 has a result of the loss of sales of things that aren’t books.

The print shop revenue declined by $263,000.

College executives tentatively expect campus to return to normal operations by the winter term in 2022, according to the meeting. However, it’s far too early to make any concrete plans due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic.