SUDBURY -- The campus is quiet at Cambrian College in Sudbury these days because many programs are being offered virtually.

But don’t let the lack of students on campus fool you -- officials with the school say about 1,600 new and current students have registered for the spring semester, an increase of 12 per cent compared to last year.

Among that number are 360 students who are new to Cambrian.

“What we’ve done this year with the pandemic is six intakes, so you can start in September, then November or January, then March or May (and) July,” said Dr. Paula Gouveia, Cambrian’s vice-president, academic.

"So we have more of that linear model because we understand that people … want to start when it makes most sense for them."

At Sault College, president Ron Common said staff at the school quickly adapted to changes at the beginning of the pandemic, switching to remote delivery of programs.

Because that was so successful, he said students know what school will look like come September.

“The projections for the fall look very, very positive," Common said. "Applications are up 14.47 per cent over last year and our confirmations are up 22 per cent.”

Pent-up demand

He attributes the increase to pent-up demand after many students decided to sit out last year before beginning or continuing their studies.

At Northern College in Timmins, numbers were down for the spring semester. But officials said it's likely because many programs continue from fall straight through.

Recruitment plays a large role in enrolment numbers and because of COVID19, in-person sessions weren’t happening.

“Where there used to be in-person, face-to-face opportunities to recruit students at open houses, college tours, you know, recruiters going out to high schools -- none of that was permissible this year under the restrictions,” said Aaron Klooster, Northern College vice-president of student and academic success.

"And so we’ve adapted quite well in that respect."

With the increased amount of people being vaccinated and a framework for a return to normalcy taking shape across the province, Klooster said it shows in the enrollment numbers.

“I think people are starting to get back to normal to some degree, even though we’re still finding ourselves in lockdown," he said.

"I think there’s some hope there and along with that comes the desire to get back into the classroom.”