STU predicts enrolment to go down by 3 per cent, attendance still strong

St. Thomas University's first semester is online due to COVID-19 and some students are taking this as the opportunity to take a gap year. (Aaron Sousa/AQ)

St. Thomas University’s first semester is online due to COVID-19 and some students are taking the opportunity to take a gap year.

Gillian Little, who would have been entering her fourth year as an English and French major, is taking time off due to remote learning.

“I knew that I would lack the necessary motivation to attend class and do classwork. Going to class is what got me out of bed every day,” Little said via email.

With universities across Canada never experiencing a pandemic and all the ‘what ifs?’ that come with it, associate vice president of communications Jeffrey Carleton said he was happy to see only a small decrease in enrolment. 

The university predicts the overall decline of student enrolment to be three per cent, which equals out to be 60 students. Carleton said the numbers for returning students were as anticipated.

“The circumstances for this year are so unique. We had expected an overall decline in our enrolment. But we’re quite pleased with the circumstance,” he said.

The number of international students stayed relatively the same. Last year STU had 202 international students and this year it has 197. The decline comes from first-year students and not continuing students. 

Carleton said he believes that since upper-year students are so used to the routine of university, most of them decided to stay enrolled.

“It depends on their circumstance, but because there are study spaces available, the computer labs are available, it helps you as you know, to get into a routine that’s helpful to be a successful student,” he said.

Even with COVID-19, attendance is still strong at STU. The numbers only slightly went down for new students.

Carleton said the university will know the number of enrolled first years by Sept. 18.

Gillian Little, a fourth-year English and French major, is taking time off due to remote learning. (Submitted: Gillian Little)

With the semester Little has chosen to take off, she plans to work as a youth support worker in Fredericton to save money and gain experience. 

“Without the need to be on campus I would not leave my house, I would be lazy, and my grades would be affected,” she said. 

Little plans on going into a bachelor of education once she completes her degree so she didn’t want this year to hurt her chances of getting into the program in case her marks went down. 

She said she isn’t happy that she had to put her plans on hold but in the end, that was the right decision for her. 

“I wouldn’t have made the decision to defer if it would have been bad for me overall,” she said.

“Not everyone finishes their education in the same way. It’s okay to take longer if that’s the right choice for you.”