- Pre-Election Letter to CUFA BC Members - May 10, 2013
- Professors Support NDP Proposal on Needs-Based Student Grants, but Say More Still Can Be Done - April 23, 2013
- CUFA BC Releases E-Book on Academic Governance - April 10, 2013
- UBC-O, UNBC and SFU Professors to be Honoured for Using Their Research in Service of the Community - April 3, 2013
Too Many Spaces, or Too Few?
- Published on Tuesday, 08 August 2006 03:54
- Written by Robert Clift
Too Many Spaces, or Too Few?
Although not directly related to the provincial election, a four-part series on post-secondary education issues that started today in the Vancouver Sun should raise some interesting questions for the parties.
The first installment looks at the issue of student spaces with particular emphasis on the apparent difficulty colleges are beginning to have in filling spaces in university transfer courses. The thesis is that as the universities create more spaces, and thus lower their entrance requirements, that colleges will have difficulties in filling their spaces in 1st and 2nd year degree program courses.
Although there is some indication this may be happening, the article fails to account for the fact that the actual demand for post-secondary education has been depressed by many years of ridiculously high entrance requirements.
In the fall of 2003 (the last year for which we have complete data), we estimate that 16,473 BC high school graduates were eligible for admission to a public university. Of those who were eligible, 12,113 actually applied and 10,007 were offered spaces, resulting in an official turn-away figure of 2,106. Had all the students who were eligible for university admission actually applied, the turn-away figure would have been 6,466, or three times the official figure.
We recognize fully that our methodology probably overstates the problem, but in the absence of the provincial government actually trying to discover the magnitude of the problem, it's the best guess we've got.So, if the actual number of turn-aways was 6,466, how many student spaces would we need to accommodate them? If we assumed that students finished their degree programs in four years and that there was no attrition between the years (neither of which is wholly true), then we actually need 25,864 spaces to accommodate all of these students. That's just spaces in undergraduate programs at the public universities.
Added on top of that are the spaces for non-academic programs at the colleges, university colleges and institutes. As a very rough estimate, we need about 7,900 more high school graduates to take non-academic post-secondary programs in order to meet projections on educational requirements for employment. Assuming these programs take two years to complete and that there is no attrition between years, then we need another 15,800 spaces.
Thus, we need a total of 41,700 new student spaces just to accommodate the number of students who graduated in 2003. On top of this we can add demand from older adults who want to upgrade their skills or retrain for new careers. So, there is a lot of pent-up demand out there.
What's this all mean? It means that to the extent that the "softening" of demand for spaces at the colleges is the result of an actual lack of demand, this demand will once again rise when the message gets out widely that there are spaces available.
On the question of whether or not demand is being limited by cost (as discussed by Canadian Federation of Students Chairperson Lisa MacLeod in the Sun article), I've already indicated in previous blog entries that I believe there is a good argument to be made for this.
Certainly in my travels around the province this past fall and winter as part of the Opening Doors for Every Student project, I met many parents who were having difficulty in supporting their children in college or university, even when the student was eligible for student financial assistance.
So, what does this mean for the election campaign? First, it means that the Liberal commitment to create 25,000 new student space by 2010 is probably still short of the mark. Second, it means that to the extent the NDP and Green Party plan to carry on with the Liberal's plan, that they too are short of the mark. Third, given that colleges tend to serve a less affluent student population than the universities, the "softening" of demand at the colleges suggests that increases in tuition fees and other costs of studying are having a disproportionate effect on middle and low income families. Finally, it means that government lacks the necessary tools to do the necessary analysis to create a system-wide plan for expansion of public post-secondary offerings.
Lots of room for improvement, regardless of who forms the next government.