University applications on the rise

Largest demand for placements since 2003

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Yesterday was the deadline for high school students to apply to Ontario universities, as students across the province hope to get coveted post-secondary acceptances and start their freshmen lives.

However, this year the demand for university spots is expected to reach an all time high in Ontario since 2003 when students in both grade 12 and the former grade 13 graduated together.

The increasing interest in provincial universities is coinciding with an economic downturn that has caused some universities, such as Wilfrid Laurier University, to cut back its operating budget.

While a decrease in revenue and campus expenditure has caused less first year positions to be offered at some universities, Western is not changing its acceptance plan.

“A real fear for applicants this year is not getting in anywhere,” said Steve McNeil, guidance counsellor at South Secondary School in London.

“[South] has had an increase by 10 to 15 per cent from last year of students applying to university through the [Ontario Universities Application Centre]. In 2008 the Western cutoff was between a 78 and 80 per cent average. This year it has gone up to an 82 or 83 per cent cutoff. I have not seen that kind of jump since six years ago " the double cohort year.”

Approximately 20,000 high school students out of the 84,000 who apply to Ontario universities will not have a position offered to them, McNeil explained.

“It is a busy year and we’ll just have to wait and see if the average at Western goes up or down. It is a phenomenon that is going on with these applications, which is great, because school is a good place to be with the economy in this condition. Students will come out stronger on the other side,” McNeil said.

“It is very hard to do a comparison with previous years now. Last year the acceptance average was between 79 and 82.5 per cent. Our first year class size has been maintained,” stated Lorie Gribbon, director of undergraduate recruitment and admissions for the Office of the Registrar at Western.

“During the past four to five years there have been 4,350 students accepted annually at main campus, plus an additional 1,550 at the affiliate colleges. We do not want to compromise the quality of education by growing the amount of freshman.”

Gribbon said last year Western received about 32,000 applications from Ontario high school students and 7,000 from other sources, leaving thousands of students hoping to get into Western with a necessary search for other alternatives. This year the same number or higher is expected. However, Western plans to maintain its first year class size around 4,350 until at least 2013.

Despite the economic troubles, some affiliate colleges have actually increased available bursaries to ensure students who are accepted into Western can actually afford to attend.

Brescia University College recently implemented 25 new entrance scholarships valued at $2,000 each.

Susan MacDonald-Aziz, a spokesperson for Brescia, insisted the new scholarships were instigated to increase students’ access to information, not to increase the number of applicants to the college.

“[We are] looking particularly at communities which have been particularly hard hit by this economy,” MacDonald-Aziz said. “We realized [with the economic downturn] that we really needed to do something more.”

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