SYDNEY, N.S. -- Now that another Maritime university is going with virtual classes for fall semester, the communities that are home to these institutions are bracing for the economic blow of not having students around.

Mount St. Vincent University is the latest campus around here that will be pretty much empty come September.

Earlier this week, Cape Breton University announced its fall semester will be conducted online.

Craig Boudreau owns restaurants in downtown Sydney and at the Mayflower Mall.

He says not having all those students around means he'll take a big hit.

"It's 5,000 people who would typically be in and out of the mall," Boudreau said. "When you think of the bus stop right in front of the mall, that was another reason to be in and out of the mall. So there's no question that will affect our sales, I would say significantly."

Roughly 65 per cent of CBU's student population is international students who may be studying from their home countries.

From rental properties to restaurants, to grocery stores and car dealerships, the head of the Sydney and Area Chamber of Commerce says the impact will be far-reaching.

"On average, every student from abroad spends roughly $38,000 a year here in Cape Breton," says Kathleen Yurchesyn. "Without having those students here, we're all going to feel that."

Friday, Universite Sainte-Anne said it's still cautiously optimistic they'll be able to welcome students in September, but that they're preparing for the possibility that access to campuses will be limited or impossible.

Also readying for that potential is Nova Scotia's business minister, particularly when it comes to the economic impacts on so-called "university towns" like Wolfville and Antigonish.

"Institutions we have will have to make those decisions what's best for them," said Business Minister Geoff MacLellan."The reality is, it looks like on the horizon for this year coming is going to be very much a virtual learning experience for post-secondary education students."

Yurchesyn fears the long-term impact.

"It is far-reaching, and I think we're feeling the hurt of this pandemic already," she said. "But it's up to us to make sure that we can bounce back as quickly as possible."

With fingers crossed, people in the business community are hoping for the return of students for winter semester.