North country college towns will see fewer students this fall

Updated: Aug. 18, 2020 at 5:37 PM EDT
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CANTON, N.Y. (WWNY) - There’s a dramatic drop in the number of students returning to campus in St. Lawrence County’s college towns this fall.

The declines in students coming to campus, by percentage, are 12 percent for SUNY Potsdam, 17 percent for St. Lawrence University, 12 percent for SUNY Canton, and 0.6 percent for Clarkson.

(St. Lawrence University plans to operate a summer semester, which officials there say will eventually boost their enrollment numbers. It’s also limiting residency on campus due to the pandemic.)

Downtown businesses, which rely on students, are hoping for the best.

“I’m looking forward to the energy that the students bring back,” said Kelly Burnham, “Flying Lotus Yoga Center and Juice Bar” owner.

“They come in here. They’re good kids. They look for a place to spend time and hang out with their friends.”

Burnham is not sure what fewer students will mean for business, if anything.

“I don’t know. It’s hard to say. It’s hard to say,” she said.

The bigger hit may come from the cancellation of sports – and events like homecomings going virtual.

“Those are typical big stars on our calendars for businesses – and those are off,” said Brooke Rouse, St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce executive director.

On the plus side, students are being told to stay within the county to prevent bringing in COVID-19. Rouse thinks that could have more exploring local downtowns.

Clarkson University began moving in students Sunday. Students were nearly 100 percent wearing masks downtown on Tuesday. And businesses were enforcing social distancing.

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