Part-time enrolment spikes despite tuition hike, pandemic

Despite the increasing tuition costs and shift to remote learning amid a pandemic, a preliminary 2020 fall term report states that the U of M has seen a sharp increase in enrolment compared to the 2018 and 2019 fall terms.

Total enrolment this year saw a 3.7 per cent increase from 2019 following a 2.3 per cent increase the year before. Undergraduate enrolment in fall 2020 saw an increase of 4.2 per cent, 1.9 percentage points greater than the increase in 2019, but the sharpest increase is part-time enrolment at 18.2 per cent higher than last year, bringing the number of part-time students at the university to 4,828.

These enrolment numbers follow the university’s decision to increase student tuition by an average of 3.75 per cent beginning this fall for both domestic and international students.

The tuition plan was developed about a year earlier by Todd Mondor, deputy provost (academic planning and programs), who, after the one per cent reduction in the university’s operating grant from the province, said the increase was a necessary step.

Executive director of student engagement and academic success Brandy Usick said that while remote learning “can be challenging for some, for others it’s quite welcomed” because of the increased accessibility for those who may struggle balancing classes with other commitments.

She said many students have been taking longer to complete their degree programs, and that may be connected to the ongoing increase in part-time enrolment.

“It might be that [students] choose to take a reduced course load because of other commitments, or because they want to get their footing before they take on a full course load to see if they can make that transition successfully,” Usick said.

When looking at enrolment, Usick said the university’s traditional demographic is recent high school graduates and students aged 17 to 21, because for many students, “it’s just the normal trajectory, or what they see to be their trajectory.”

University of Manitoba president and vice-chancellor Michael Benarroch said “even during these uncertain times, more students are registering for courses because they want to secure a meaningful future for themselves.”

He continued to say that the U of M is prepared for the challenges, and a “huge collective effort is being made to deliver the best possible learning under challenging circumstances and to align opportunities for students with labour market needs.”

“From our perspective, it’s wanting to ensure that we’re here to provide support to students — whether they’re full time or part time and whatever their personal situation is — in terms of helping them with that traditional transition from high school to university, but also given [COVID-19], helping them with transitioning into that remote learning environment,” Usick said.

She said that in efforts to provide support for new students, the university 1 first year centre has been able to transition all programs online. The centre has done additional work through UM Commons and through new programs like prep week designed to familiarize new students with the university.