UNDERGRAD APPLICATIONS SURGE

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By Sarah Boesveld

News Editor

With a 17.5 per cent increase in first-choice applications from high school students, demand for undergraduate degrees from Ryerson is the highest in Ontario.

But the odds are against students since the university is refusing to increase its enrolment capacity. Christina Thai spent weeks working on the portfolio she hopes will squeeze her into the fashion communications program — her first choice.

“I’m really scared right now…the competition is really high,” said the 17 year-old student at Markham’s Middlefield Collegiate Institute. She graduates this spring. Ryerson boasts the highest percentage increase in applications out of all Ontario universities, while all schools saw an average increase of 5.9 per cent.

The figures are based on the number of applications received by the preliminary Jan. 11 deadline. While president Sheldon Levy is pleased with the high demand Ryerson is garnering, he is concerned that Ryerson does not have the means to accept more students. This is due to lack of funding for improvement at the university.

“We have had to make very difficult decisions about limiting undergraduate numbers … quality is compromised by admitting more students than our space can handle,” he said in a statement last week.

Space is something Ryerson has been hoping to get, as reflected by the Master Plan endeavour, but Levy refuses to crowd students into classrooms just yet. “We can’t increase without diluting the quality of education (at Ryerson),” he said.

Jamie Mackay, vice-president of policy and analysis at the Council of Universities, says more students than ever are applying for university in Grade 12, instead of taking an extra year of classes or a year off before leaping to post-secondary school.

“The 18 year old population is growing fast. This is a phenomena we’re going to have to get used to and plan for accordingly,” he said. Mackay has seen an overall increase in applications for specialized programs — explaining, in part the Ryerson boom.

Overall, demand for engineering went up 10.8 per cent and landscape architecture (similar to urban planning) by 33.3 per cent. Mackay says Levy will want to sit down and have a serious talk with administration about what Ryerson will do with such a great increase in demand. Ryerson’s registrar Keith Alnwick said the school has already put ideas in motion.

He said Ryerson will not accept more students despite the increase in demand, but will have to keep hiking up the requirements for entry level marks. “We’re going to have to be very careful about the number of students we accept,” he said.

Two years ago, Ryerson put a cap on its enrolment numbers because they did not have the resources to meet the demand.

“You’ve seen a gradual increase in entry level marks over the past decade. This is yet another chapter in that,” he said, adding that the biggest change will likely be tougher competition.

He said the Ontario government is providing funding for two issues: quality initiatives and funding for access. “It’s not clear what steps the government will take. One would imagine that the government would not want to see this five per cent not accepted (to university).”

Sheamus Murphy, spokesman for Chris Bentley, provincial minister of training, colleges and universities, said Ryerson has the choice whether to leave or the $100 million funding support to increase enrolment.

“We hope that if a student is not able to get into Ryerson, they’ll get into another Ontario university,” he said.

The Ontario government has made a three year commitment of $100 million annual funding to its universities in an effort to boost quality and enrolment. In the meantime, Christina Thai will continue to work hard in her classes, mail off her portfolio, and keep her fingers crossed. She feels a fashion communications degree from Ryerson is the ticket to landing her dream job of working at a fashion magazine.

“(The program) has exactly what I want. It’s a mix of fashion and business. No other school has that.”

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