You might not get your top choice this fall

Some universities are cutting enrollment

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Photo courtesy of thepanamerican on Flickr

The trend at universities over the past decade has been to pack in as many students as possible.

But this year, a few schools are planning to reverse the trend by cutting enrollment.

Combine that with the fact that the number of applications continues to grow—up 2.4 per cent in Ontario, for example—and 2012 may be a difficult year for students to get their top choice schools.

Alan Rock, the University of Ottawa’s president, announced last week that growth at his school will slow to 500 new students this fall.

That’s after a long stretch during which the campus added 1,200 to 1,500 new students annually.

Rock says lower enrollment will improve quality on the crowded campus. “The easiest thing to do is to throw it open and say ‘Let’s take 2,000 more because we need the money,'” he told radio station CFRA. “That’s not fair to the students who are already on campus.”

The U of O wouldn’t have had trouble finding 2,000 new students. As of Feb. 1, the school had 22,685 applications from Ontario secondary students alone, up 3.2. per cent over Feb. 1, 2011.

The University of Calgary also announced this week that it will cut enrollment. Calgary will shrink by 300 to 500 students. Curiously, U of C says the cuts are needed to balance its budget.

The University of British Columbia has already cut undergraduate enrollment in Vancouver. The official plan is to decrease from 30,809 full-time undergrads in 2008 to 28,400 in 2017.

However, UBC Vancouver will grow slightly overall, as it increases the number of graduate students to 11,300 in 2017, bringing the total population up slightly to 39,700, where it will be capped.

Of course, not everyone is cutting enrollment. Nipissing University in North Bay, Ont., for example, has just under 4,000 students, but is aiming to grow to 6,000.

Even some big schools are making room. Western University, which is building new residences, lifted its admission cap of 4,350 new students last year and welcomed 5,100 in September.

Either way, it’s a good reminder to always apply to back-up schools, in case your first choice isn’t available. You never know what will happen between application time and the fall.