College sees slight surge in enrolment

Criminology student Kurt Koleszar looks up information in the library of Okanagan College Thursday morning. Like other post-secondary schools in the valley, the local campus is reporting an increase in registration. - Mark Brett/Western News
Criminology student Kurt Koleszar looks up information in the library of Okanagan College Thursday morning. Like other post-secondary schools in the valley, the local campus is reporting an increase in registration.
— image credit: Mark Brett/Western News

Enrolment continues to climb at educational institutions throughout the valley, with both Okanagan College and UBC Okanagan reporting record enrolments for the fall semesters.

For Okanagan College, a snapshot of student enrolment in mid-September shows an overall four per cent increase in the number of students over the same time last year; 6,216 compared to 5,976 a year ago. That news comes in the wake of a 16 per cent increase in the college’s summer enrolments.

The Penticton campus, however, is showing only a small increase, with 610 students on the list, compared to 604 last year. Regional dean Donna Lomas said that’s due to an increase in academic enrolment being balanced by a drop in trades courses.

That’s probably due to the weak housing market, she said, which will correct itself when the market shifts again.

“This growth is an important signal,” says Okanagan College president Jim Hamilton. “It means we’re able to accommodate more students who are able to pursue their career and academic goals.”

The increases on the Penticton campus mirror the overall college picture. First-year university science enrolments have increased 51 per cent over the previous year (338, up from 254); student numbers in the environmental studies more than doubled (50 compared to 20); students taking first year of business administration programs have increased about 10 per cent (556 compared to 504); and student enrolment in the two years of the criminal and social justice diploma program has climbed 53 per cent (129 compared to 84).

“We had a really strong increase in our academic programs. They were up about nine per cent. That’s really good for us, so we’re really pleased,” said Lomas, who added that business programs are doing particularly well. “We kept adding seats so we have classes with 40-plus students, which is unusual for us.”

Science programs are also doing very well, according to Lomas, who adds that the criminal justice program has become so popular, they have had to turn people away from it. That may be due to last year being the Year of Science, and raising the profile of sciences.

Part of the reason they have been able to schedule larger classes is the extra room provided by the newly opened Centre of Excellence, but Lomas said besides extra space, the new facility has had another effect on campus life.

“Students are spending more time on campus,” said Lomas. There are more things to do, she said, with more recreation possibilities and more study spaces available. “Students don’t all have to crowd into the library when they want to study.”

The fall enrolment data only tells part of the picture at Okanagan College. It is a snapshot of students enrolled in programs that started in September. The college has other programs that start later in the fall and in January. There are still more that started in the summer and continue through the fall as well as distance education, where the number of students registered grew to 137 from 112 last year.

If the trend holds through the full year, 2011/12 will be the seventh year in a row that Okanagan College has grown. Since 2005, Okanagan College has grown by 46 per cent, exceeding government-set targets each year. Last year, the college was bigger than Okanagan University College in 2005, its last year of operation before splitting into the college and UBC Okanagan.

UBC’s Okanagan campus is also reporting record numbers, with 7,901 students registered, including 710 graduate students. In early September the university reported 2,049 first-year students were enrolled to start class in the 2011 winter session, up 12 per cent over the same period in 2010.

The most significant growth in enrolment is from Lower Mainland secondary school applicants, totalling 478 new students, up 36 per cent from last year.

“This campus has seen tremendous growth since its inception,” says Doug Owram, deputy vice-chancellor and principal of UBC Okanagan. “Our reputation as a centre for innovative learning and excellence in teaching has grown year over year as we have attracted more students from around the province, across Canada and representing more countries than ever before.”


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