The bridge connecting Algonquin Centre for Construction Excellence to B building. Photo credit: Andrea Sternberg

Algonquin College has seen a rise in enrolment since last year but still has yet to reach their pre-COVID-19 numbers.

Enrolment was down 15 per cent for fall 2020, and while the college cannot predict the upcoming fall numbers in these uncertain times, they are sure that it will be higher.

“We are not yet forecasting our enrolments to be back to where they were prior to the pandemic,” said Chris Janzen, senior vice president academic, during the Algonquin College town hall meeting on Feb. 10.

When asked, during the town hall meeting, about the forecasting for student enrolment this year and next, Janzen said he would hesitate to give specific numbers off the top of his head but knows they are lower than pre-pandemic. He then assured good solid numbers are expected.

“We know that there is a significant demand for our programming from abroad, yet we have a number of difficulties,” said Janzen. “Travel bans, the new restrictions on needing to quarantine in a government-approved hotel after coming into one of three airports, any number of challenges.”

During the ongoing pandemic travel has been made very difficult. International students must consider the Canadian-enforced travel restrictions as well as those of their own countries.

According to the 2018-19 annual report, Algonquin College saw, over 3,000 international students from more than 100 countries. This was a 42 per cent increase from the previous year.

“This coming spring is very strong,” said Laura Stanbra, vice president of student services, during the town hall meeting. “In terms of new programs being launched that is offsetting some of the challenges we are having with our international students who may have barriers coming here.”

While Janzen and Stanbra believe that the upcoming enrolment is strong, they do specify that it does not mean the college will be seeing the same enrolment numbers as they had before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our enrolments went down significantly during this past year,” said Janzen. “A drop in enrolment by approximately 15 per cent that has caused a great deal of challenges. When we say we’re looking good for next year that doesn’t mean we’re going to be fully recovered to pre-COVID numbers.”

Janzen said that it could take the college about three years before they begin seeing enrolment numbers at the same level they saw before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are doing well within the College Ontario system,” said Stanbra. “We are actually often at the very top or top three of how we’re performing, both in applicants and converting those applicants into confirmed students at the college.”