Dalhousie eyes possible enrolment drop from dentistry scandal

Applications ‘not falling off the cliff’, but administrators wait for March deadline

Dalhousie senate met on Monday in the Macdonald building to discuss the long-term effects of the dentistry scandal. Photo: Jess Flower

The Dalhousie senate is bracing for long-term fallout and the financial consequences stemming from the dentistry issue.

Carolyn Watters, provost and vice-president academic at Dalhousie, spoke in her report to senate on Monday about the anticipated drop in applications for the upcoming year.

Saying it was too early to give accurate numbers (Dalhousie’s first application deadline isn’t until mid-March), Watters said the university is optimistically forecasting up to a one per cent drop in applications.

“Early predictions show that we’re not falling off the cliff,” Watters explained. “Early March will be more illuminating as to whether dentistry will take its toll.”

Dalhousie has seen an enrolment increase of 3,243 students since the 2007-2008 school year, reaching an all-time high during the 2013-2014 school year with 18,440. The school has enjoyed an upward trend in enrolment over the past eight years, with the most notable swell of six per cent coming with the class entering in the fall of 2012.

A negative trend in enrolment would undoubtedly have financial ramifications for Dalhousie, which like any other school relies on student tuition to help balance the budget. Dalhousie budgeted a collection of close to $139 million in tuition fees for the 2014-2015 school year.

This school year, tuition revenue increased by $7.6 million, with $3.9 million of that coming from “better than budgeted enrolment in 2013-2014 and a modest planned increase in enrolment in the fall of 2014.” But that’s only part of the story.

The Dalhousie operating budget cites bumps in tuition fees as the source of the other $3.7 million. There was an increase of three per cent across the board, while first-year dentistry students had an increase of six per cent, a difference of $6,391 when compared to their fourth-year colleagues.

Using the most recent data available, if the enrolment of first-year dentistry students dropped by 10 per cent, or about 24 students, the dentistry faculty would miss out on $878,780.73 in one year.

This hypothetical scenario doesn’t include other prospective undergraduate students who might be deterred from applying due to the bad publicity the school has garnered. If total enrolment at Dal dropped and tuition was negatively affected by a change of just one per cent, the school could lose out on $1.389 million.