University “comfortable” despite fewer students
Despite shrinking enrollment since 2004, officials at St. Thomas say the university is doing just fine.
Preliminary numbers suggest 2,468 full-time students are currently enrolled at STU, down from 2,518 last year.
“It’s a comfortable size for St. Thomas,” Jeffrey Carleton, director of communications, said. “Several years ago, the Board of Governors made the decision that the enrollment at STU is best for the institution when it’s between 2, 400 and 2, 800.”
He said operating with any more students jeopardizes the experience the university offers, which he feels includes a small campus and smaller class sizes.
“There are certain academic goals that are better met between 2,400 and 2,800 students,” he said.
Carleton said the current number of students here also allows the school to maintain solid financial footing.
Final registration numbers won’t be tallied until October, as course registration at the university is open until Sept. 18.
Registration at STU peaked in 2006 when the school had 2,938 full time students.
The decline in enrollment is a symptom of the shrinking high school graduate pool schools across the region are faced with.
According to the Department of Education, the number of high school graduates in this province will drop by 20 per cent over the next 10 years.
Schools in Atlantic Canada now find themselves in competition for fewer students, and are exploring ways to better attract students to their campuses.
“You start to sharpen your game a bit. You need to focus on your home market and solidify it,” said Carleton.
He noted that the number of applications from New Brunswick high school graduates at St. Thomas is up this year, and the school has held steady in the number of PEI and Nova Scotia applicants it’s received.
Peter Halpin, executive director for the Association of Atlantic Universities, believes embracing the internet is one of the best ways to reach the next and more tech-savvy generation of students.
“One of the challenges in the university world today, in marketing, is that those who are responsible for it are obviously older,” said Halpin. “Having a deep understanding
and awareness of the media that today’s young people use daily, or hourly, is critically important.”
Twitter and Facebook are two examples of popular social media being used by young people today.
While the St. Thomas University recruitment office doesn’t have a Twitter feed, they do have a Facebook group devoted to this year’s incoming class of students. As of Sept. 13, the group had 464 members.
Halpin said now is the time for Atlantic Canadian universities to attract students from other regions of Canada and internationally.
“There are fewer high school graduates every year, and that gap has to be bridged in some way,” he said. “Our universities have a strong reputation internationally which enables us to attract students from outside the province, regionally, and from around the world.”
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