Education News – Post-secondary enrolment higher than ever

HAMILTON (CUP) ? When the going gets tough, the tough get learning. That’s what some experts say is the reason for the increase in post-secondary applications this year.

The number has not been higher since the double cohort in 2003, and the applicant increase percentage has doubled for winter college programs compared to last year’s growth.

The number of applications for both colleges and universities has been growing every year. Compared to last year, Ontario colleges received 10 per cent more applications, while universities saw an increase of just over one per cent. With a closer look, these numbers grow even more.

?We believe that It’s a sign of the times in terms of the economic downturn,? said Sally Ritchie, Colleges Ontario’s senior communications. ?We anticipate that more people will be taking advantage of the training and re-training provided by colleges.?

The increase compared to last year in those not applying straight out of high school is nearly 12 per cent for Ontario colleges and almost 10 per cent for universities.

Ritchie says people look to higher education when facing a recession, and they might think upgrading with new skills is the best thing to do.

George Granger, executive director of Ontario Universities Application Council (OUAC), says this is a very good time to go back and get a better education.

?On one hand, you have the group in high school looking down the road, trying to prepare themselves for what lies ahead,? said Granger.

?Then you have this other group. Many find themselves within the certain reality based on the way the economy is today. The jobs that were there a year ago aren’t there now. The prospects of mobility that might have been there a year ago aren’t there today.?

With the increase in applications comes an increase in competition, but Ritchie says College Ontario will work with the government to ensure the colleges can accommodate these students.

?We certainly want to welcome them with open arms,? said Ritchie. ?But there’s a limit.?

More students in the classroom also means more classes, faculty, and potentially larger class sizes.

Deborah Calarco, associate registrar of admissions at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario, says they are prepared for what lies ahead.

?Many of the schools plan additional sections just in case. With [the business program], we’ve used those sections,? she said.

Calarco says there won’t be any negative impact to the admissions cut-off, despite the substantial increase in applicants. She says Mohawk’s applicant pool is currently 11.7 per cent higher than it was last year.

?There are places where we had demand, but we couldn’t take more. In nursing, there is always a high demand and we could not accept everyone,? said Calarco.

Sam Maga, president of the faculty union at Mohawk College, says he doesn’t see there being a teacher shortage, even if the increase in applicants does translate into higher enrolment come September.

?As far as being able to put those students in classrooms and have teachers there, that never seems to be a problem,? said Maga. ?What category of teacher they will be in the classroom with is hard to say.?

With increases in enrolment, the college will have to hire more part-time faculty, he says.

?I would prefer that they hire full-time, obviously, to make sure that they have good jobs. As opposed to being part-time, being paid about a third of everybody else That’s full-time, without getting benefits, without getting job security or any protection of their rights,? said Maga.

But he says that Mohawk is one of the best colleges when it comes to maintaining an acceptable full-time to non full-time ratio.

?When you look at some of the other colleges, there are twice as many non full-time as there are full-time,? said Maga.

?The issue they have is funding. With the new economic challenge that we have in the country and in the world, That’s going to be a bigger problem in the future [than having more students]. If people are coming back to school or entering school due to population shifts, then the government has to respond, and they really haven’t.?

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