Economic factors may have lead to an unexpected increase in undergraduate enrollment at the University of Manitoba. First day numbers show an increase of 4.3 per cent, with the total enrollment at the university standing at 27,262.
“It’s a welcome increase,” said John Danakas, director of public affairs at the U of M.
“We had thought that because of demographic context here in Manitoba, with less students in graduating high school classes, that we might see either near-the-same enrollment, or even a decrease.”
The trend of students enrolling or returning to post-secondary education in times of an economic downturn could be a large factor of why the university has seen this increase.
“That’s not a surprise. In good economic times, some people, who might otherwise choose to go the school, see an opportunity to enter the workforce and make a pretty good salary without doing post-secondary education or maybe before they do post-secondary work,” explained Peter Dueck, executive director of enrollment services at the U of M.
However, the increase still comes as a surprise, considering Manitoba has not been hit as hard by the recession. “It has not hit us nearly as hard as some of the regions in the country, probably because of our diversified economy,” said Dueck.
“We didn’t expect to see a big bump in enrollment here. In fact, we expected to see a slight decline. We were projecting a 3 per cent decline,” he reported.
The program that saw the biggest increase was the agriculture diploma program, with an increase of 40.7 per cent.
“It’s very curious why there’s such a large increase now [ . . . ]. Typically, in the past, diploma enrollment has been very closely linked to the price of wheat,” said Gary Martens, acting director of the School of Agriculture.
“As the price of the commodity goes up, there’s more interest in farming, however, that is not the case right now. The price of commodities is not really high. It’s sort of average, so there must be some other reason for it.”
According to Martens, one change that may have had an impact was what he referred to as the “two-plus-two” program, where students with a B+ or higher average in the diploma program can transfer their credits over to a degree, allowing them to finish both a diploma and degree program in four years.
The department has had to make some adjustments to accommodate the increase. “It was a bit of a surprise,” said Martens.
“We were pleasantly surprised, but it was such large numbers that we’ve had to add lab sections and change classrooms because 96 student registered in a classroom that only has 80 seats, so we had to change a couple things around.”
The number of students enrolled in University 1 has increased from 6,182 in the fall term of 2008 to 6,656 this term, an increase of 7.7 per cent.
This may be a result of recruitment work done by University 1 department, which works to recruit students to the university with the insurance that they will have the support systems they need if they so choose to enroll.
“We’re trying to sell all the different kinds of things we can do to help the student succeed in [first] year, because that’s where the biggest drop out rates are,” said Christine Blais, director of University 1.
“Our goal is if they end up in trouble, we’re here to see what the trouble is and try to fix it if we can so that they can succeed.”