Student dropout rates were projected to increase this year compared to Fall 2019. Photo credit: Madalyn Howitt

Algonquin College announced a higher than normal projected fall 2020 dropout rate in comparison to the fall 2019 semester, during the Oct. 26 board of governors meeting.

Most often, the college experiences a period of withdrawals before day 10 of the fall semester. This is a period when students are able to receive a full tuition refund when they withdraw.

“At Day 10 the college’s withdrawals were up compared to Fall 2019 by about six per cent,” said Jennifer Brownstein, data analyst from the Registrar’s office. “The number of Net Registered students in the Fall of 2020 declined by 7.6 per cent compared to the same time last year.”

The transition to remote learning has been the cause of the projected withdrawal rates at the college. “Most of this decline might be attributed to COVID-19 and the inability of the college to be able to provide some programs in-class,” said Brownstein.

The dropout rate has risen from 5.9 per cent to 6.4 per cent in 2020 by Nov. 6.

“Student withdrawals for Fall 2020 term have seen an increase as a percentage of total registered students,” said Chris Lackner, acting communications manager.

However, it’s important to note that compared to previous years at the same points in time the total number of withdrawals do not reveal dramatic changes in the student body.

To compare, in fall 2019, Algonquin college saw 1,262 in total withdrawals as of Nov. 6. This year, that number is 1,260.

From the 858 withdrawals on day 10 of the fall term, 610 were domestic first-year students – the biggest group impacted. When looking at international students, 41 first-year international students withdrew, with only 25 returning International students, said Lackner.

With the projected upward trajectory of the withdrawal rates, a faculty member voiced their concern during the board of governors’ meeting around the effects of the availability of courses, which impacts the number of faculty needed on campus.

The board’s response assured faculty members they are taking all necessary measures and are prepared if the dropout rates continue to increase.

To combat the continued rise of student withdrawals, the college and Student Association are working to make sure students are being supported during this time.

Emily Ferguson, president of the SA, noted that one way to help students is to direct them to the experts on campus, such as at the Center for Accessible Learning.

Lackner expressed that the college is putting effort into making this semester as pleasant as possible.

“The College has worked very hard to create a positive remote learning experience based on the College’s experience with online learning and the incredible commitment and creativity of our faculty,” said Lackner.