Capping enrolment

Next year, the University of Calgary will join the majority of other Canadian universities and cap enrolment. However, student leaders are unsure of the move.

Until now, the university has set guaranteed admissions averages 18 months ahead of time, assuming infinite capacity. However, the U of C is currently operating at 126 per cent of its capacity, as determined by Alberta Learning. This has spread resources much thinner. Students have seen dramatic increases in class sizes and unavailable required classes.

"We’ve got to recognize that the quality of the student experience has really been impacted," said Enrolment Services Executive Director Kevin Paul. "There wasn’t going to be a heck of a lot of money coming from the government."

To combat the deterioration of its learning environment, the university is developing a five-year plan to attack the problem. Enrolment Services is initiating top-down enrolment, a new admissions design where each year they assess the number of available spaces–roughly 5,500–and determine a GPA that will admit only that many students.

"We’re expecting our typical increase in applications [six to eight per cent], we will expect the average to rise about one to two per cent from last year [72 per cent]," predicted Paul about the expected effect in the larger faculties, such as Humanities. "We will probably see gradual rises [in GPA] over the next few years."

This gives the university some form of defence against not only the increasing volume of applications, but also against spikes such as last years’ 200 per cent increase in applications from Ontario. Luckily for students, not all those who applied decided to come to U of C.

Critics of competitive admission point out high GPAs do not necessarily mean the best students.

"I’m not a big fan," stated Students’ Union Engineering Faculty Representative Wesley Ferris, "Getting straight As does not necessarily make you a good engineer. Engineering in the real world is team design. I could have a 3.8 if all I ever did was study, but I think my extracurricular involvement is more important."

Ferris feels competitive admission will have an adverse effect on the quality of graduates from engineering. He believes the new system will raise already high admission averages, 3.8 in some departments. Ferris feels an interview to assess these abilities should become a part of the process, during second year when students apply to a specific department.

Although Ferris agrees the faculty is overcrowded, he believes the benefits of smaller classes and more resources outweigh not admitting the best students.

"Something has to be done, admissions have to be capped, but this is unfortunate," Ferris concluded.

However, no other system seemed feasible to the enrolment committee. They felt if they tried to incorporate other factors the admissions process would come to a standstill.

"We’d be admitting students as senior citizens," said Paul.

For current students, classes and other resources should become more available. However, for those who transfer faculties, they will compete with transfer students for a limited amount of spaces. Such students would be well-advised to keep their focus on GPA alone.

"A lot of faculties are really unsure what will happen," said SU Vice-President Academic Demetrios Nicolaides. "It seems like the most logical way to do it, but I’m not sure it’s the best way. There are lots of issues we have to look at."

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