TIMMINS -- Going away to university in a new city is a rite of passage for many students.  But some university officials say times are changing and they must do the same.

Sault Ste. Marie's Algoma University is developing a plan to reach more students in the Timmins area. 

“We’ve learned a lot through COVID. I think that’s what’s really resonating with me that there are things we can do that we probably didn’t think we could do a year ago," said Asima Vezina, president of Algoma University.

"I think if we’re innovative and if we’re meeting the needs of community then I think the sky’s the limit.”

Algoma teamed up with Northern College more than ten years ago to run some programs out of its Timmins campus and also allow qualifying college students to take some university courses. 

Now, Algoma is ready to expand and meetings with potential partners throughout the northeast have already begun. 

“This is not going to be 'hey let’s put a building here and run a university', said Paul Toffanello, the principal of Toffanello Consultant Services, working with Algoma University.  

"This is gonna be ‘let’s partner with Northern College, let’s partner with business and industry, let’s partner with the Timmins Chamber of Commerce, with the EDC; let’s look at ways that the whole community invests in this and the opportunities that they can create.’”

Both Toffanello and Vezina have lived and worked in Timmins an its surrounding area in past years and feel it's not only a good time, it's a crucial time to offer more educational opportunities to the region.

“Every industry and organization within the Timmins area and their outside communities have people that are looking to gain further qualification," said Toffanello. 

"Well, rather than sending them somewhere or going through a university well outside their reach, you know what, it’ll be offered right here.”

“Our goal is to really service this area of the province and we know that in the northeast region our university graduate statistics are way below the rest of the province," added Vezina.

She and Toffanello say so far feedback has been good and they're working with stakeholders to develop a strategic plan that will carry Algoma through to the next five years.  They say it will be presented to interested communities within the next few months.

Beyond the social work, computer science, and community development programs, it's already offering through Northern College; it's now also adding business programming such as:  accounting and human resources.  Algoma is also considering offering master's level programs and sees a need for leadership development, addictions, and mental health courses.