College enrolment blows out last year’s record mark

Peggy Revell

With the fall semester just around the bend, the local campus of Confederation College is reporting the number of students this year “blows last year’s record out of the water.”
The school is sitting at 128 confirmed students for the year, campus manager Anne Renaud noted last week, including 90 first-year students—up from last year’s 60.
And Renaud said those numbers probably will jump even further as there still are students who haven’t gotten their offers of admission yet or confirmed their offers of admission.
As well, the local campus also gets people walking in during the first week of September to enroll.
“So we still might get more. I’m estimating between 130 and 140 total,” Renaud said, adding that with orientation day slated for Sept. 8, and classes starting Sept. 9, it’s still not too late for people interested in enrolling.
Renaud credits a number of factors for why the campus here has seen the increase in enrolment.
“We’ve been working really hard in the last few years that a lot of our ‘pre’ programs, so pre-health, college access, preparation for the GED, things like that, so a lot of students are new in the sense that they’re into new programs but they’ve been working with the college [before],” she explained.
Renaud said increase also comes from “a lot of work with partners in the community,” such as Fort Frances High School, the Skills and Employment Centre, which administers second career funding from the government, the United Native Friendship Centre, and other Métis and First Nations’ organizations.
“And just because of all the hard work the staff have been doing here,” she added.
“People hear word-of-mouth that it’s a good place to come, that you get good results at the end, so they continue to tell their friends, and the word of mouth I think has a big impact, as well.”
The growth in numbers follows the trend the local campus has been seeing over the last four or five years, continued Renaud, noting the school only had 50-60 full-time students just a few years ago.
“So it’s definitely been a fast and very big increase,” she remarked.
“Like anything else, it’s quite cyclical, but I think we keep offering really good programs and things that the community wants, so I think that’s going to continue to attract a lot of students.”
The most popular programs which are attracting students tend to be ones related to health, Renaud noted.
“For example, for practical nursing we have 12 seats here, 12 in Atikokan, so a total of 24. [And] we have 15 people on the wait list for that. So that’s very popular,” she said, adding the practical nursing program being run in Atikokan is a first for the college.
Other popular programs include Early Childhood Education, or the school’s multi-skilling programs, as well as the business programs.
As well, what programs the campus runs also comes from input and response from local employers and students as to what they’re looking for and need, Renaud explained.
“The new program that we’re offering for the first time this year, in many, many years, is developmental services worker, and we have 12 confirmed students already in that,” she said.
“We decided to offer that program because we’re getting requests from the community, from people that hire developmental service workers, they have a hard time finding people that are qualified in that field, so they’ve been asking for a few years for us to offer that program.
“So, finally, we’ll offer that and I’m glad to see that the students are coming out for it because there are really good jobs in that field when you graduate,” she stressed.
As well, many of the students enrolling aren’t coming directly out of high school, but are older ones, Renaud noted.
“We have a lot of people that it’s not the first time necessarily that they’re coming to school,” she said. “They may have taken, for example, personal support worker plan, they work for a few years, and now they’re coming back to do practical nursing.
“Or it’s people that have been laid off, or have been working in the forestry industry or wherever else, and now they want to get the educational background to get a different job.”
With the rise in enrolment, the college also has worked to increase the support it has for the students.
“We have increased slightly, as much as I can, the support staff that we have so we have additional classroom assistants in place so that they [students] can have as much support as they have in the past,” Renaud said.
“Obviously, our number of instructors has increased because we’re offering more programs, and more courses in each of those programs, so we’re working hard to make sure that the support is still there,” she stressed.
“We always work very closely with student services in Thunder Bay, where there’s the learning centre, our counselling department, the admissions registrations, and all that, so everything is in place and ready to go.”