Despite a global pandemic which grew more complicated and severe at various stages throughout 2021, St. Clair appeared to have maintained healthy enrolment, according to numbers presented to the college’s Board of Governors (BofG) during its September 28th meeting.
The preliminary Fall 2021 semester figures provided by the Registrar’s Office depict a one percent growth in enrolment compared to the same period last year.
This year, 14,034 full-time postsecondary students are enrolled at St. Clair, up from 13,885 in the fall of 2020.
In total (with adult training programs and apprenticeships added), there are 14,619 full-time students at the college currently, up from 14,497 last year.
(These are “ten-day numbers” … the deadline after the start of classes, when iffy students are limited to “withdrawals with refunds”.)
These numbers also include the many international students who are still studying in an on-line manner in their home-lands, waiting for COVID-related travel restrictions to be eased so that they can make their way to Canada.
Many of the college’s programs and overall schools did, not surprisingly, experience stagnant growth or enrolment declines as the pandemic entered its 18th month at the start of the semester.
Even Business and Information Technology, the largest school and the major recipient of international enrolment, saw a dip of six percent.
Evidently, however, students foresee that the pandemic-caused crisis in the health-care system (including “staffing burn-out”) may lead to some opportunities in the assorted professions within that field. Enrolment in the college’s offerings in health-care programs increased at both the Windsor and Chatham campuses by approximately three percent.
The college’s “sister school” relationship with Toronto’s Ace Acumen Academy continues to bolster overall enrolment in a significant manner.
Ace Acumen is a private-sector school, that provides secondary school education and English-language training to immigrants (chiefly from Asia).
In the early 2010s, it began searching for a public college that it could partner with, in order to provide its students with some follow-up – and on-site – postsecondary education opportunities.
After months of negotiation, in early 2014, it launched such a partnership with St. Clair.
Initially, with abundant academic oversight and licensing its curriculum to the private school, St. Clair offered two Ontario college diploma programs at Acumen’s Toronto Campus: Business and Computer Systems Technician-Networking.
The on-site offerings proved so popular among Acumen’s students that the program options expanded to include Data Analytics for Business, Office Administration–Health, International Business Management, International Business Management–Logistics, Human Resources Management, and Social Service Worker–Gerontology.
Having added a second campus last year, over 3,000 students are now enrolled in the St. Clair offerings at Ace Acumen in Toronto and Mississauga – up 12 percent from the fall of last year.
In a very current update of the presented numbers (all campuses), Registrar Mike Silvaggi noted that domestic student enrolment – and associated provincial grant funding – is stagnating/declining. That makes the college’s financial stability increasingly dependent upon the international enrolment coming from this year’s 66 nations – and 6,800 students – around the globe.
And Silvaggi’s most up-to-date numbers (as of the 28th) suggest that the college could actually be facing an enrolment decline this year (even beyond the customary withdrawal deadline) … especially in terms of domestic students, and perhaps international ones too. Silvaggio’s up-to-date report, in fact, suggested that this year’s enrolment number should, perhaps, be viewed – at the moment, and at best – at a no-increase level.
Also during the BofG meeting, a five-month update was presented by Chief Financial Officer Marc Jones, detailing the college’s fiscal situation as of the end of August. (The college, like the provincial government, operates on a budgetary year of April 1 to March 31.)
The five-month-long snapshot is, it must be emphasized, a rather misleading one, because it includes very little of the tuition and grant revenues that customarily begin to flow during the Fall semester.
As it stands, as of August 31, the college had a budgetary deficit of $9.9 million, more than double the deficit ($4 million) that it was running a year ago (August 31, 2020).
Jones’ report noted that many of the previous year’s COVID-related cost savings, especially those associated with staffing, are now evaporating as the college resumes its conventional operation.
Despite those higher-than-previous costs, Jones noted that revenues will eventually catch up to expenditures, and the red ink will be erased in favour of black.
It may be too early, however, to gauge whether the college’s 2021-22 budgetary forecast of a year-end surplus of $27. 3 million remains realistic and achieveable. Stay tuned for commentary about that during Jones’ mid-year budget review at the next BofG meeting.
AHEAD OF THE PACK
The almost OCD-ish concern exhibited by St. Clair President Patti France about pandemic-related controls saw her, throughout the summer, frequently communicating with the provincial Chief Medical Officer and the hierarchy of Windsor Regional Hospital …
… To the point that, in a very dramatic way, St. Clair established the benchmark for COVID control-policies among Ontario’s two dozen colleges.
Indeed, when the provincial government did get around to setting its pandemic controls/restrictions for postsecondary schools for the fall semester, St. Clair had met them all (because it had set those levels, approximately two weeks before they were initially proclaimed by the provincial government).
As of the September 28th meeting date of the Board of Governors, St. Clair had an overall double-vaccination rate (staff and students) in excess of 80 percent.
It was also was one of the few postsecondary institutions in the province that was offering the majority of its programs in in-person fashion – because it was eligible to do so, under pandemic-control restrictions.