Enrolment up in Nova Scotia

Student enrolment at Dalhousie is up by 4.2 per cent this year and some are suggesting it's because of the bad economy.

Students are hard at work in the crowded library at Dalhousie. Photo by Andrew Kudel

Leah Watson and Leah Mass are both university graduates, but they're back to school this year for more education before they try to enter the job market.

They have enrolled at Dalhousie in the social work program for graduates. It's a two-year program and they have high hopes for getting a job with the specialized skills offered by the program.

"Nothing else except to go back to school," says Watson about the job climate that many university students are finding themselves in the past year or so.

Dalhousie has 650 more students this year than in 2008. According to a report by the Association of Atlantic Universities, enrolment at Dalhousie increased by 4.2 per cent. The school had the largest percentage increase of students of any university in the Maritimes.

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With enrolment up at Dalhousie this year, the study spaces may get crowded. Photo by Andrew Kudel

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Student thoughts on the economy and coming back to school for graduate studies or multiple degrees. By Andrew Kudel and Peter Clarke

Click to Enlarge University enrolment for Dalhousie, Saint Mary's, Acadia and Memorial from 2006 to 2009

Among these 650 new students are 87 graduate students returning to school for an upgrade, an increase of more than two per cent. It may not seem like much but the increase in the previous year's report was 0.4 per cent. There's some debate over the reason for the increase.

Charles Crosby, a spokesperson for Dalhousie said he found that the increases were across the board and no one faculty or department got an overwhelming influx of students.

"It's a combination of things," he said.

He attributes it to Dal's increased emphasis on overseas enrolment international recruitment. He also says the new college of sustainability degree program that started this year may have attracted some environmentally minded students to Dalhousie. They had been expecting 150 students to sign up and they got 300.

Crosby also acknowledged the historical trend of the poor economy may be prompting people to return to their studies.

"In bad times people go back to school," he said.

Crystal O'Hara, a psychology student at Saint Mary's agrees. She says having a graduate degree is almost essential these days, like having a high school diploma 20 years ago.

Dal isn't the only school to have increased numbers this year. The Association of Atlantic Universities reports that enrolment is up 2.1 per cent in Atlantic Canada and 1.7 per cent in the Maritimes.

Many post-secondary institutions are reporting increased enrolment this year. Acadia has 128 more students this year over 2008, while Saint Mary's only grew by 14 students.

Some smaller schools are also doing well. Cape Breton University enrolment increased by 2.7 per cent and University of King's College's went up by 3.5 per cent. Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Truro has 71 more students this year bringing the small schools enrolment to just over 900.

The numbers seem to support the idea that graduates are going back to school.

Graduate enrolment increases (per cent)
• Acadia: 11.5
• Dalhousie: 2.4
• Memorial: 11.2
• St. FX: 22.6

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