Opinion Column

Algonquin's Waterfront Campus in Pembroke by the numbers

Jamie Bramburger

By Jamie Bramburger, Special to The Daily Observer

Algonquin College's Waterfront Campus in Pembroke, Ont.

Algonquin College's Waterfront Campus in Pembroke, Ont.

Algonquin College is approaching its 50th anniversary and as it moves towards this milestone, it is clear the Pembroke Campus has come a long way since its humble beginnings when it opened its doors to only 16 full-time students in 1968. In fact, if you fast forward to the present state of the college, it is clear how important the campus has become to Renfrew County.

Prior to building its new Waterfront Campus in downtown Pembroke, the college had commissioned an independent study to determine the economic impact of the campus on the greater region. The study, completed by American consulting firm, C.C. Benefits, determined that the campus and its current students and past graduates contributed more than $154-million annually to the local economy. The study findings were released in 2006.

Nine years later there are many tangible examples of how the campus is driving business development, particularly in Pembroke's inner core. For example, the building of two privately owned and operated student residences, the investments being made to improve the downtown from publicly funded infrastructure to the sale of buildings, and of course the college's own multi-million investment in building a spectacular Waterfront Campus.

A quick snapshot of the Pembroke Campus says a lot about how it has grown and why so many more business opportunities have spun off from college activities. The campus now offers 20 full-time programs, plus several apprenticeship training programs, academic upgrading classes and continuing education courses.

The enrollment is projected to be more than 950 full-time students this coming fall with almost half of these students arriving from out-of-town. Most of the out-of-town students come from other parts of Ontario, but there is a collection from across Canada and a handful of international students. In recent years the campus has attracted students from the United States, Great Britain, New Zealand, Africa and other countries around the world.

Last fall, 58 per cent of the students that studied at the Pembroke Campus were women, 75 per cent of the students were under the age of 25, and surprisingly only about 20 per cent of students came directly from high school. Many students will take a year or two off before entering a college program.

About 45 per cent of students relied on a government funded student loan program to help pay their educational expenses. That doesn't mean there weren't others that had hoped to secure a student loan. They may have been declined for various reasons including household income, and therefore had to secure other funding sources including bank loans or lines of credit.

In the 2014-15 academic school year the campus doled out more than $150,000 in student award bursaries, with many of these bursaries being donated by community organizations and businesses. As the college began fundraising for its new campus, increasingly more donors wanted to invest directly in students by setting up endowments to support students in financial need.

Moving forward, the campus is continuing to bring new programs and courses on board, allowing it to attract more students from both our local region and from afar. As it delves deeper into applied research, entrepreneurship and scholarship, the campus is deepening its connection to the community's economic prosperity.

Jamie Bramburger is the manager of community and student affairs at Algonquin College's Waterfront Campus. You can follow Jamie on Twitter: @brambuj or reach him by email at: brambuj@algonquincollege.com.

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