For most, spring brings visions of flowers, the return of the Toronto Blue Jays and April showers, but for colleges and recent high school graduates, spring means something entirely different – college open house tours and confirming acceptance offers.
Niagara College held its annual Spring Open House on Saturday, April 2, 2016. The event is designed to educate prospective students and their parents on all aspects of life at the college, from program information, to residence tours and meal plans. Colleges across Ontario take part in hosting open house events to assist families of students who are preparing to attend college and encourage students to enroll in their institution for the fall semester each year.
However, in recent years, the number of students applying and entering post-secondary education has begun to decrease and institutions across the province are feeling the pressure to draw in as many students as they possibly can.
According to a release in 2014 by the Ontario Universities Application Centre (OUAC), enrolment in university has seen a decrease of 2.9 per cent, and enrolment in colleges has suffered a slightly larger drop – down 3.5 per cent from the previous academic year.
Part of the reason, according to OUAC, is that the children of ‘baby-boomers’ have are reaching adulthood, leaving a much smaller generation’s children to follow in their footsteps. Currently, the 9.1 million Canadians who have baby-boomer parents (parents born between 1946 and 1964) are approximately 24-43 years of age – beyond the usual age of enrolment to post-secondary education.
A survey conducted by OUAC also found that the average post-secondary student carries $27,000 in debt as they near graduation, which is a frightening thought for those who are unsure about enrolling in post-secondary education.
In response to the now shrinking market for post-secondary students, colleges have begun proposing new programs and initiatives to draw students in, from draws to receive a reduced tuition, to a promise of iPads and other technology upon confirmation.
Many of these new incentives to draw in students are held or announced in the few months between the application process and the confirmation deadline in May. Colleges across the province often use annual open house events to advertise the advantages of confirming your application with their institution, which can range from campus safety and academic standards, to grants and bursaries and unique programs.
Philip Hayes, manager of the Student Recruitment and Information Centres, says initiatives to draw students in at the college are not just based on those entering college immediately after high school.
“We do have strategies for students coming directly from high school, we also have students that are coming from the world of work, or have been out of school for a while and we also have students who are coming directly from other institutions. Something like Spring Open House is used as a great showcase for all of those audiences.”
Initiatives used by the college include draws for $3,000 off one year’s tuition and a further $2.5 million in bursaries and scholarships for students to receive information on, as well as unique programs in the fields or wine and beer crafting and unique co-operative education opportunities.
“For me, I chose Niagara College because I heard the Electrical Engineering program was superb and they have a contract with Hydro One for co-op placements”, says Mac Clark, a first-year Electrical Engineering student at the college.