Universities reject qualified students

January 22, 2004, vol. 29, no. 2
By Howard Fluxgold

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An increasing number of qualified British Columbia high school graduates are being rejected by the province's universities because of a shortfall in funded positions, a study by SFU's office of analytical studies concludes.

The study, prepared annually by analyst Joanne Heslop, says “access to B. C. universities for B.C. Grade 12 graduates continues to deteriorate.”

While students may meet the minimum published requirements for university entrance, the limited supply of spaces has lead to higher actual minimums. For example, at SFU the published minimum is 67 per cent while only those who averaged 80 per cent gain admission to the faculty of arts.

The result is that between the fall of 2001 and 2003 the number of qualified applicants who were refused admissions at B.C.'s four universities increased from 1,642 to 2,106. That's a jump of 28 per cent. At the same time the proportion of qualified applicants rejected has increased from about 14 per cent in 2001 to 17.4 per cent in 2003.

But this is only the tip of the iceberg, says Walter Wattamaniuk, director of the office of analytical studies.

“We know that many students who realize they do not meet the higher actual minimum do not bother to apply,” he notes.

He says that over the past several decade the number of high school graduates and applications has been increasing at a higher rate that the supply of spaces funded by the provincial government.

John Waterhouse, VP-academic, is convinced the government is aware of the problem and would like to do something about it.

“There is an increasing awareness on behalf of government that there is a problem. From a public policy point of view, it means trading off the need for increased funding for advanced education against health care and other social objectives. I'm optimistic that the government has recognized this need and I'm optimistic that if the fiscal situation permits, there will be additional spaces created.”

Waterhouse would like to see the Surrey campus grow to 2,500 students from its current level of 650 students over the next six years. He would also like to see funding for more graduate students at the Burnaby campus.

“Our position is that the government should expand access by funding more seats across the system and specifically fund more seats at SFU,” he concludes.

In the meantime, B.C. continues to lag behind Ontario and Quebec in access and participation rates.

The full report is available at applications analysis.

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