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By Jann Lee

Deandra Lalonde said she couldn’t help but visit the Ryerson University booth at this year’s Ontario Universities’ Fair.

“It’s the first thing you see when you walk in,” Lalonde said.

Never having visited the campus, the fair was her first impression of the university. She said she wasn’t disappointed.

Ryerson had the largest booth in the room, with eye-catching LCD screens, bright colours and 400 faculty, staff and students popping in and out for the three day fair to answer questions.

With its grand appearance, it impressed Lalonde and her father Robert Lalonde who travelled all the way from Niagara Falls.

But although Ryerson is effective at drawing in prospective students, its glitz comes with a high price tag.

This year, the university spent about $230,000 at the fair, with $115,000 on space and construction and $18,000 on lanyard give-aways. Promotional materials rounded out the budget.

But Ryerson’s registrar Keith Alnwick insists that even with the big price tag, the investment is worth it.

According to Alnwick, the more students who apply to Ryerson, the more revenue the university collects from application fees and some of this money is used to fund the fair.

Alnwick admits that generating the money isn’t easy, but he thinks the Universities’ Fair is too important an event to skimp on.

“If we’re not happening at the fair, then we’re not representing the university effectively,” said Alnwick.

In the past four years, Ryerson’s applications have steadily increased. Last year attracted 63,000 applicants.

Ryerson also has the highest ratio of first-choice applicants to spaces available in Ontario. Applications from secondary school students rose 8.1 per cent since last year alone.

But even with its success in impressing future students, Ryerson fails to do the same with its current attendees.

Upon hearing Ryerson’s Universities’ Fair budget, hospitality and tourism management student Daphne Wong was shocked. “Why are they spending so much money on décor and lanyards?” said the second-year student. “The booth is going to be gone in three days.”

Ryerson student Chris Bicos shares the same sentiment.

“It’s kind of ridiculous,” he said. “I think it’s a waste of money.”

The fourth-year commerce student thinks that student services should be improved.

“I’ve been here for a while and I still don’t know what Ryerson has to offer,” said Bicos.

As for high school student Lalonde and her father, a big budget can only go so far.

“The booth is obviously important,” said Mr. Lalonde. “But the real keeper is the person you’re talking to.”

At the booth, Lalonde couldn’t spot any short-comings. Unlike other university displays, Ryerson had faculty from almost every program present to answer questions.

“With the other booths, they didn’t really want to talk,” he said.

“With the [Ryerson’s booth], it’s a bit more friendly and open.”

His enthusiasm is exactly what Alnwick wants to accomplish.

“Without people’s support and contribution, the fair is not going to succeed the way it does,” Alnwick said.

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