Post-secondary choices are growing, one factor in declining enrolment at the U of R. Photo by Miranda Burski.
by Miranda Burski
The hallways at the University of Regina may seem less crowded lately.
Over the last four years, the U of R has experienced an enrolment decline of approximately two per cent per year. Barb Pollock, vice-president of external relations, said that this decline is, in part, due to three factors: the economy, rising costs, and the number of graduating high school students.
While it may seem as though a better economy would make it easier for people to attend university, Pollock explained that it tends to have the opposite affect. When an economy is doing well – as it recently has been in Saskatchewan – post-secondary institutions often experience a fall in the number of applications.
“People can see themselves getting … good pay without availing themselves with post-secondary,” she said.
Cost has always been a problem for potential students. Many feel that they cannot afford the price of tuition, books, and all other possible costs, so they put off enrolment until a time when they feel more comfortable with their financial situation.
The last issue is the age of high school graduates. Pollock explained that over the past five years, southern Saskatchewan, the U of R’s main drawing area, has seen a drop in the number of students graduating from high school.
This, of course, has led to a decline in the number of applicants to post-secondary institutions.
“Families weren’t having families that result in 18 (to) 19 year olds right now, so we started feeling that effect in the last couple years,” said Pollock.
One of the ways the university is hoping to solve the enrolment problem is by examining what students are looking for when they decide which universities to attend. For some students, the answer is simple.
“My mom wants me to stay (in Regina) for a year … but I kind of wanted to get away from home,” said Katie MacDonald, a Grade 12 student in Regina.
When MacDonald began looking at universities, she first looked into the quality of the psychology programs.
She narrowed her choices down to the University of Saskatchewan and the U of R, but says that she will probably be staying in Regina for a year.
While convenience plays a role for some, there are more complex variables for others.
India Albashir, an ESL student originally from Sudan, chose to attend the U of R for several reasons. These ranged between cost, the people she could meet, and the classroom environment the university provides.
One of her biggest concerns, however, was future career opportunities.
“I think that when I graduate from the U of R I’ll be able to get a good job and earn a fair salary.”
After looking at the issues surrounding enrolment decline, university recruiters have developed a plan focusing on three things: marketing, branding, and the internal application and registration processes.
Marketing refers to recruiters attempting to expand their reach to include potential students outside the typical U of R population.
The university hopes to look not just in southern Saskatchewan for these future students, but beyond the province’s borders.
The branding initiative is still fairly new; it entails changing how recruiters let prospective students know about the university.
Pollock explained the branding initiative as “talking about the university in a way that does something for the listener.”
As well, university administrators are looking to improve the application and registration process, so that people know if they have been accepted sooner, along with what type of acceptance they have received.
While it will take some time for these possible solutions to boost student enrolment, U of R recruiters are hopeful the numbers will, once again, begin to rise.