Enrolment at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont., down 14% this fall amid restructuring

Fall enrolment at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont., is down 14 per cent compared to the same time last year, said the school, which is still in the restructuring process after filing for creditor protection in February.

School cut programs after going under creditor protection in February

Student with helmet walking into Laurentian University
Enrolment at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont., is down 14 per cent, slightly under what was expected, compared to the fall term last year. The school, which cut programs after going into creditor protection in February, released the fall enrolment figures Thursday. (Erik White/CBC )

Enrolment at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ont., is down 14 per cent this fall compared to last year, said the school, which is still restructuring after becoming the first Canadian public university to file for creditor protection in February.

The enrolment drop was slightly better than the 15 per cent decline that had been projected, Robert Haché, Laurentian's president and vice-chancellor, said Thursday as the school released its fall numbers.

"We were very pleased that in fact, the fall enrolments this year do exceed the planning that we did and do therefore provide a small additional buffer to the university in its finances going forward," he said.

Laurentian filed for creditor protection under the Companies' Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA), allowing it to operate while dealing with its financial situation.

In April, Laurentian cut more than 30 programs to reduce its operating expenses. More than 100 faculty and staff members were also terminated.

Laurentian president and vice-chancellor Robert Haché said he is confident the institution can rebuild its reputation after filing for insolvency earlier in the year. (Parliament of Canada)

For this fall, in total, just under 8,000 students were enrolled, Haché said. That includes 2,100 online students and 5,900 students who are primarily doing their courses in person.

Haché said French-language students represent around 20 per cent of the enrolment numbers. The decline in numbers was also smaller among those students. 

"Laurentian is absolutely committed to continuing its mandate as a bilingual and cultural institution, offering high-quality academic programs in French and English to our students."

In September, the university's first-year student enrolment numbers showed a 33 per cent decline.

Looking to the future

Despite its challenges, Haché said, he is confident Laurentian can rebuild its reputation.

"You know, there's still a lot of work to be done," he said. "But I truly believe there is a path forward for this university to continue to serve the community, northeastern Ontario and to do so in a way that will provide the best possible academic opportunity for students that choose to come here."

He said he has already seen a difference in the university's halls, now that many students have returned to campus after a year of online-only education. 

"I've spoken to a number of third-year students who have, you know, they've experienced that first year on campus and they were off campus for a year and now they're back. And having experienced both, they're particularly pleased to be back and experiencing face to face learning."

With files from Kate Rutherford