Volume 96, Issue 64
Thursday, January 23, 2003

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EDITORIAL

The double cohort echo

These days, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities has an answer for all questions related to the double cohort: "Every willing and qualified student will have a spot."

In light of statistics released by the Ontario Universities Application Centre, which showed 9,000 new spots need to be created to meet student demand, the government's rhetoric has gone from tired to outright bogus.

Last week, Minister Dianne Cunningham conceded that new spots would likely be needed – with a price tag of $60 million. Unfortunately, the Ministry has not promised the new funding and continues to hide behind their dubious assurances.

The reality of the situation is much less muddled than the Ontario government's planning of the double cohort: a lot of qualified students will be out of luck when September rolls around.

What will be the average grade of those students that do not make the cut? If students with a 75 per cent average do not get into a university, then it will be clear the government's "qualified student" rhetoric is simply a shield being used to deflect responsibility.

Even more disturbing is the fact that the government has had so many years to prepare and prevent the current crisis. New buildings have popped up at just about every campus in Ontario, but the student-faculty ratio has continued to climb. Universities established with the province how many new students they would take, but there were still more applications than expected.

The blatant lack of foresight and incredible incompetence might even warrant calls for Cunningham's resignation, but the proximity of a provincial election makes that unlikely.

Equally frightening is that, while all the attention is focused on next year, no one seems to be considering how upper-year classes are going to accommodate the double cohort class bulge two or three years from now.

In most programs, upper-year classes allow for a closer professor-student relationship and class discussions, as they are typically much smaller. The double cohort "echo" may serve to eliminate seminar courses from university calendars, an integral part to the academic experience.

And what about the students who get axed from their programs after first-year because they can't meet the surely astronomical requirements to stay in university, generated by the sheer number of students? The university will refund their tuition, no doubt.

The echo may also make graduate programs nearly impossible to get into. With a similar glut of students four to five years from now, applicants to master programs, as well as law, dentistry or medical schools, may need 90 per cent averages just for a chance to get in.

At least students will be used to unrealistic expectations by then.

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2002 THE GAZETTE