Volume 96, Issue 65
Friday, January 24, 2003

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Double cohort playing hooky

Between Lines
Tait Simpson
Opinions Editor

They're coming. An invading army of 17, 18 and 19-year-olds, the likes of which we haven't seen since Britney Spears played the Molson Amphitheatre, is about to take over our school.

Build new residences, new faculty buildings, hire more teachers and be sure to stock up on water and batteries because once they're here, you never know what they're going to do.

Overhearing options on how to deal with the double cohort is like overhearing bad gossip third hand. Everyone seems to know a friend, who knows something about what the double cohort in Ontario schools will mean for Western, but no one really knows the numbers behind what's going on. Those numbers say one definite thing: those hordes of new students? They're not coming!

That's right, they are going somewhere, but it isn't here. What has been lost in all the stories about applications being up 50 per cent and the province looking for $60 million in extra funding is that there aren't any more spots available at Western than in any other year.

None.

Come September, there won't be anything different except for a few more students using wet/dry cards.

You see, Western has a Strategic Plan which was created by the "powers that be" to guide the school to a prosperous future. Of course, the administration knew this increase in applications was coming, but the school cannot increase acceptances by thousands one year, only to have them reduced back to traditional levels the previous year.

The schools who think they can do this are the "commuter" schools around Toronto and the lightweight universities, happy to take on extra students in exchange for increased government money for infrastructure. All of this brings us back to the Western numbers.

There will be 6,595 spots for first-year students for the 2003/2004 school year. That is, give or take a few, up from 5,988 this year, and 5,650 the year before that.

So, there are more spots you say? Well, yes and no.

According to the Stategic Plan, Western increases enrollment by three to five per cent every year, depending on the final number, which in all honesty, isn't confirmed until the first day of classes. Two years after the dreaded class of 2003/2004, there will be even more places available because the school will continue increasing first-year admissions at a steady rate. At some point, theoretically, they will have to cap the number of applicants, but that won't be anytime in the near future.

For evidence of this, look to the new residences built on campus. The new residence being built on the north side of Western Road is not due to the double cohort, but because the school must build a new residence every four to five years. Look at Elgin and Essex Hall as examples of the gradual need for two new residences each decade. Every four years, because of the gradual increase in admissions, there is a residence worth of new first-year students that want their guaranteed place to stay.

Western will grow every year because that is what a good school does. Every year, a few more students, a few more buildings and of course, a few more questions about what to do with it all.

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