A new role to fix low enrolment

President Dawn Russell during the town hall meeting on Thursday (Megan Cooke/AQ)
President Dawn Russell during the town hall meeting on Thursday (Megan Cooke/AQ)

In reaction to a continuing drop in enrolment, St. Thomas President Dawn Russell announced the creation of a new position, associate vice-president of enrolment management.

In ten years enrolment has dropped by 1,000 students at STU. This has caused problems budget-wise as shown during the town hall meeting on Thursday.

The enrolment position was posted last month. Administration hopes to hire someone by spring.

“For this fall, there are less than 2,000 students projected to enrol leaving us with a student body a third smaller than it was 10 years ago,” said vice-president academic Barry Craig during the meeting. “Our main source of revenue, students, has dropped by 33 per cent.”

He hopes the new enrolment position will help fix the recruitment and retention problem at St. Thomas.

“There is a fair bit of new information and techniques that we can look at from practices at other universities. We can look around at other universities that have made progress, that have made enrolment improve and have established precisely this position.”

He said unlike himself, this new position will be able to focus on this one issue exclusively “all day every day.”

The job description for this new position says the person “will oversee recruiting and admissions functions to achieve our enrolment goals. This will require developing, implementing and evaluating data-driven plans for recruitment, enrolment and student services and effective utilization of our financial aid to maximize student enrolment.”

The new enrolment associate will work with recruiting, admissions, student services and residence life. He or she will also collaborate with offices of the registrar, institutional research, communications, alumni relations and financial services.

Barry refused to disclose the amount of the salary or a range of the salary amount for the new position.

English professor Dennis Desroches wrote a letter to faculty, staff and senior administration opposing the new enrolment position.

“I’ve requested that they defer it until a conversation can be had about whether that is the best route to go,” he said. “I think what keeps students in university is not managers but great courses and great faculty.”

He said the main problem with this new role is its contribution to the trend of universities being run more like corporations.

“The difference between a corporate and a collegiate model is that a corporate model cares about money whereas the collegiate model is based on a community and how to get that community to function in the best way possible,” said Desroches. “Corporate managerialism doesn’t really care about that. And so what we have now is a situation where the administration is increasing its corporate managerial capacity without any real attention, in my view, of what students need and what faculty need.”

Desroches was particularly upset that this new position was being created at the same time three full-time tenure track positions were cut.

He said he thinks the administration should start talking to faculty about these issues.

“Faculty is routinely excluded from administrators’ debates about problems or challenges and government debates about challenges with PSE.”

So far, the administration has not responded to Desroches. On Thursday, administration said applications for the new position are being reviewed.

At the town hall meeting, vice-president finance Lily Fraser stressed the difficult decisions administration has been making and that there is still a $600,000 gap.

To fix the problem of enrolment, this position is their hopeful solution.

“The reason for it is because of the significant risk in terms of the number of students that we have – which, just is what it is.”

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