Volume 13, Number 7 November 18, 2005

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Enrolment flat - Census

By Lawrence McMahen

Census Day 2005

Photo by Colleen MacPherson

The University’s annual fall Census Day was a mixed bag this year – providing some good news and some not-so-good for campus enrolment planners.

The picture emerging from the 2005 snapshot of student numbers taken Oct. 12 is that, generally, enrolment remains flat, although graduate student enrolment shows strong increases. Overall, some colleges are up a bit, some are down. Total U of S enrolment is down slightly – to 19,639 this fall, down 124 students, or five-eighths of one per cent, from the total of 19,763 in October 2004.

But delve further, and the numbers reveal some better trends.

Two key officials see promising indications that the University’s effort to change the mix of its student population and increase overall numbers is starting to have an impact.

But Enrolment Director Laurie Pushor and Registrar Kelly McInnes say it is just starting, and they add the U of S is now in a transition period – when a number of changes to student recruitment and student services haven’t had time to have their full effect – and also when the extensive data used to track enrolment is in the midst of a switchover from the old student information system to the University’s new SiRIUS data system. That has made it hard to generate some of the detailed Census Day numbers quickly this year.

However, much of the data is in place, and a report on it went to the Board of Governors Nov. 9. Provost and Vice-President Academic Michael Atkinson was also scheduled to present the report to University Council Nov. 17.

Pushor and McInnes say the Census Day data suggest the U of S faces a couple of challenges that could produce positive results: First, the University should keep on with its many initiatives designed to attract targeted groups of students. And second, the bigger challenge that might make all the difference for enrolment growth, is to find a way to stem the University’s relatively high rate of student attrition.

The Census Day report this fall relates the preliminary student numbers to the various goals of the U of S Enrolment Plan, which aims to increase the student population to 21,000 (18,500 undergraduates and 2,500 graduate students) by 2010. The Plan also calls for recruitment of more students from the rest of Canada and around the world, for increased scholarships, and for more residence space.

And, it set out the need for a major study of student attrition and retention. A $70,000 study into U of S experience on those issues from 1993-04 through 2003-04 is now underway, with August 2006 as the target completion date.

Preliminary data from the retention study indicates the U of S retains just 60 per cent of its students and loses about 40 per cent during their academic program – 10 per cent flunk out, but 30 per cent leave their programs voluntarily.

“This represents a huge opportunity for the University, if we can find a way to keep them,” Pushor says. That’s the aim of the study.

He adds the generally flat enrolment at the U of S is consistent with what’s happening in many other places across Canada. And, Pushor says, the U of S continues to face strong competition for students from expanding post-secondary areas like Ontario, the University of Alberta and the new UBC-Okanagan. On top of that, the University raised its minimum academic admission average for this fall to 70 per cent, reducing its potential number While this latest Census Day report doesn’t yet break down the number of credit units students are enrolled in, it does reveal the following:

  • The number of undergraduate students overall is down this year – to 16,708 this fall from 16,915 in 2004 – but graduate students are up – to 2,096 this year from 1,969 last year. In the three years since 2002, master’s enrolment is up by 12 per cent and PhD enrolment is up by 56 per cent.
  • With extra effort to recruit across Canada and around the world, there is a slow, steady increase in the percentage of new students in direct-entry colleges from outside Saskatchewan. It rose to 8.92 per cent of students this fall, up from 7.88 per cent last year. New out-of-province students are up eight per cent.
  • The number of international undergrad students in the direct-entry colleges remains almost unchanged – at 651 this fall compared to 654 in 2004. The report says new efforts to recruit in Malaysia, Taiwan, Kenya, Norway, China, Mexico and other countries showed promising results, with a 40-per-cent increase in new international students.
  • The preliminary data shows the number of self-declared Aboriginal students remains flat or slightly down – at 1,755 this fall, compared to 1,825 in 2004. Regardless, Pushor notes the good news that 332 Aboriginal students graduated last spring.
  • The report states 421 students declare they have a disability and 1,192 declare they are members of a visible minority.
  • Data for direct-entry colleges shows variable results – Agriculture enrolment is 548 this year compared to 560 last year; Arts & Science is at 7,716 compared to 7,701 last year; Commerce is at 1,704 compared to 1,536 last year; Engineering is at 1,474 compared to 1,392; and Kinesiology is at 482 compared to 499 last year.

For more information, contact communications.office@usask.ca

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