University enrolment numbers down

Enrolment in academic programs at Vancouver Island University took a small dip this fall, reversing a three-year trend of increases.

Enrolment in academic programs at Vancouver Island University took a small dip this fall, reversing a three-year trend of increases.

University spokeswoman Toni O’Keeffe said student numbers are down in the degree, diploma and certificate programs.

The university enrolled students in 26,095 course seats this fall, compared with 27,839 last year.

Course seats refer to individual courses, said O’Keeffe, and a full-time student takes five courses at a time.

For the previous three years, VIU reported enrolment increases in September each year, which were partly attributed to the economic recession, as well as the institution’s change in status from a university-college to a university.

Some in-depth analysis is needed to help determine the reasons for this year’s slight fall, said O’Keeffe, but uncertainty about the labour market and the month-long faculty strike last spring might be factors.

“A lot of people may have decided to stay working instead of coming back to school because of economic conditions,” she said.

The labour dispute happened around the time students were choosing what school to attend, O’Keeffe added.

Steve Beasley, executive director of the VIU Students’ Union, said the drop in enrolment could be due to students taking fewer courses, rather than fewer students attending.

He’s heard from many students that it was hard to make money in hospitality or tourism jobs this summer and some students might simply have not made enough money to take a full course load.

“Many students rely on service sector or tourism-based jobs and it was not a good summer for that,” said Beasley.

The upside of a slight decline in course enrolment is that there are fewer wait-list pressures this fall compared with last year, he added.

Last year, there were more than 1,000 students on wait-lists the second week of classes.

The union hasn’t asked the university how many students are wait-listed this year because it hasn’t received many calls about it.