The numbers are in and for Camosun College, they aren’t looking good. The college is projecting a $6.7 million deficit for this year, and they’re not the only post-secondary institution on Vancouver Island that is struggling financially due to the pandemic.
“That deficit comes from a whole array of areas,” said Geoff Wilmshurst, vice-president, partnerships for Camosun College. “Everything from international student tuition, which is down from what we would see normally, as well as many areas of ancillary service.”
Ancillary services include the bookstore, parking revenue and cafeteria sales. Altogether, the biggest hit has come from the lack of international students.
“A number of students have either returned home or it becomes very difficult to remain in an online setting,” said Wilmshurst. “That’s not just international students.”
Camosun is not alone in managing these challenges.
“We are anticipating a significant deficit,” said Carol Stuart, provost and vice-president academic at Vancouver Island University (VIU).
For the same reasons, VIU is also facing financial challenges. Those losses are still yet to be calculated.
“I think it’s safe to say in the millions, and I think you would find that across the province in most cases,” said Stuart. “How many millions, I can’t say at the moment. I wouldn’t want to guess.”
The University of Victoria (UVic) has also seen a decline in international undergraduate enrollment at a rate of 2.7 per cent. Although in UVIC’s case, it is projecting student enrollment to increase by 1.3 per cent this academic year to a total of 20,343 full-time students.
At VIU and Camosun College, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in some job losses, mainly in ancillary services. In Camosun’s case, continuing education classes have been cancelled.
“We simply could not afford, under the current economic circumstances, to be able to continue with it,” said Wilmshurst. “But it’s coming back soon.”
Yes, things look bad at the moment, but post secondary institutions are optimistic about the future.
“There’s so much good that is going to come from this in my opinion,” said Wilmshurst.
Camosun has a plan and it’s already beginning to see results.
“If you look at international for example, we’re reaching out to lots of students in parts of the world that we normally didn’t access,” said Wilmshurst. “So we’re going to see a lot more students from places like Latin America where we’ve typically not seen students coming to Canada and to Victoria.”
And of course, the pandemic has shown that learning can be done remotely.
“I truly believe that out of any crisis comes opportunity,” said Stuart. “Crisis is opportunity on the tail of a dragon – and this is a very big dragon.”
A big dragon that these post-secondary institutions plan on beating.