Ontario university applications rise

Unis say more money needed to fuel "knowledge economy"

Almost 2,300 more prospective students have applied to enter Ontario’s universities this September, new data shows. Numbers released Monday show 86,500 students have sent in applications to the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre. That’s an almost three per cent increase over last year.

The number of mature students applying to go back to school is also tracking almost three per cent higher compared to last year. The Council of Ontario Universities says that could mean more than 45,000 mature students applying by the end of their application cycle in September.

There has been concern that Ontario’s Grade 12 students will face heavier competition for university and college spaces in high employment courses as those laid off due to the shaky economy seek to go back to school.

However, Ontario’s minister of education and some university officials have indicated Grade 12 students will not be given priority for the available spaces despite the fact they could end up in the workforce with only a high school education if they are not accepted. Laid off workers would by definition have some employment experience to fall back on if not accepted.

Professor Bonnie Patterson, president of the Council of Ontario Universities, says with the increase in applications, governments will have to invest more in universities in order to have enough graduates to fuel the so-called “knowledge economy” of the future. “To meet these demands, enhanced government investment in the sector is required to accommodate the growth and to ensure that the quality of the learning experience is not undermined by taking more and more students on board,” said Patterson.

Patterson reminded the government that its own task force highlighted the need for more educated graduates. “We recognize that these are challenging economic times for the province but as the Ontario Task Force on Competitiveness has said in a recent report, the recession has not changed the imperative for developing our human assets – if anything it has heightened the need,” she said.

There has been a 46 per cent increase in the number of university applicants since 2000.

The Canadian Press