UFV students are becoming increasingly frustrated: the school is operating above capacity, resulting in hundreds of waitlisted students across all departments and faculties. Required entry-level courses like English 105 are being hit the hardest – some with more than 400 students being waitlisted – and other prerequisite classes follow closely behind. Many students have been forced to postpone their academic advancement because they are unable to attain spots in these vital service courses, and some may be denied the opportunity to graduate on schedule because of UFV’s lack of space.
Last year, student enrolment rose, and, unfortunately, the school was unprepared to deal with this jump in numbers. As Mark Breedveld, department head of UFV’s Business Administration program, said: “When the economy went down, suddenly we had lots of students wanting to take courses. That was a bit of an unforeseen circumstance, and as an institution, we’re still adjusting to that.” UFV was granted university status in 2008, and its student population has been increasing ever since. “In a sense,” Breedveld noted, “we’ve had too much success for our capacity.”
Why is UFV so ill-equipped to handle these new students? The answer is simple: it doesn’t have the cash. A province-wide post-secondary funding freeze by the Liberal government has left UFV scrambling to find both space and money to deal with the unexpected influx. With full-time enrolment funding capped at 6,645 students and the university operating at around 105 or 106% capacity, the extra courses that are already being provided are actually a drain on financial resources, according to Vice-President Academic Eric Davis. With finances the way they are, the university is unable to satisfy the needs of its student population because it cannot afford to add more blocks of in-demand courses.
According to UFV administration, these extra courses used to pay for themselves – but not anymore. John Carroll, head of the English department, noted: “…with the formula that [UFV is] using now, and the way they’ve calculated it, they find that having more students and more sections actually increases the demand on many different resources in the university, so that, ultimately… 22 students doesn’t satisfy the cost for the course… that’s why they wouldn’t be so willing to open up new sections, because they aren’t cost recovery and they don’t have any money.”
According to Carroll, “There’s no growth funding from the government, so we’re basically stuck at the level that we’re at. We used to get growth money all the time, and we used to spend [it] in advance, because we… assume[d] we’d be getting more the next time around, so [now] we have to tighten our belts. In order to pay for it, you have to find the money from somewhere else in the institution. You can’t hope to get that money from the government.”
What does the future hold for waitlisted students? Given the current public policy and political climate, said Eric Davis, Vice-President Academic, “there`s a recession…the government spent a lot of money on the Olympics, it’s not in great financial shape, and health care gets first priority, then K-12 education, then post-secondary education.”