JUSTIN EISINGA | REPORTER
2014 has been an ironic year for Redeemer University College. In June, Redeemer said goodbye to its largest graduating class ever. This fall, however, Redeemer experienced its lowest enrolment levels in many years. To be precise, enrolment levels dropped a hefty 12 per cent. As a result, Redeemer’s administration has been forced to find ways to save money in order to protect the vitality of the institution.
To say this drop in students and its accompanying budget strain were unexpected is far from the truth, though. In fact, the province of Ontario has warned universities across the province about a drop in student enrolment for several years. Redeemer is not alone in this experience; Wilfred Laurier University, for example, experienced a 14 per cent drop in enrolment.
This drop in student enrolment comes down to two major factors. The first is simple demographics; the number of university-age people in the province of Ontario is shrinking.
The second factor, on the other hand, has more to do with student anxiety about employability. College programs have experienced growth in Ontario, while University programs, specifically in the Humanities and Liberal Arts, are not so attractive. At the end of the day, students today are enrolling in programs that promise employability and job security, neglecting to consider the value of a Liberal Arts education.
Redeemer has had to respond to these challenges in several ways. Primarily, President Hubert Krygsman recognizes the need for Redeemer to become financially viable. Redeemer has carried a heavy debt for many years, something Dr. Krygsman wants to cut in half at the very least. Thus, he instructed his Vice Presidents to find $1.5 million in expense reductions.
At the same time, however, the President of Redeemer has worked with the admissions department to create an aggressive recruitment strategy. This strategy includes the creation of new recruitment tools, the hiring of a recruiter for Western Canada and the creation of a new award for first-year students.
On top of these developments, Dr. Krygsman is intent on building up Redeemer’s current program offerings, as well as creating new paths of study. Although some of these program changes are still under wraps, Dr. Krygsman does want to make it clear that more attention will be given to experiential learning opportunities, such as co-op programs, internship placements, and other avenues for students to gain experience in the workplace and make strong connections.
What this all means is that there will be obvious cuts in some areas, while in others there will be a recognizable increase in profile, something Dr. Krygsman knows will be difficult for all to understand. “It will be a strange sensation to be making reductions in some areas where we have too much capacity for our current size,” says President Krygsman, “while we will be adding strategically to offer a wider array of programs and activities. When you’re in the middle of that, it’s tough to take.”
But Dr. Krygsman thinks it will be worth it in the end. “I believe the result of all this will make Redeemer more attractive to students and offer a wider array of programs and activities,” stated the President of Redeemer. “It will also make Redeemer more financially viable for the long-term.”
These financial challenges may leave students wondering about increases in tuition, but the President assures that the rise will not be significant in the coming years. As part of their agreement to secure the Ontario Tuition Grant for Redeemer students, any tuition increases the school makes are capped at 3 per cent. This level of increase is the same across the board for all Ontario universities. With the rising cost of materials and resources, tuition increases are a sad reality in today’s education climate.
Financial challenges are never fun for the life of any individual, and the same goes for our institution. President Krygsman finds himself in a difficult situation in the months and years ahead as he leads Redeemer University College to financial viability, and hopefully to an increase in student enrolment. Dr. Krygsman is taking it with stride, confident that the decisions being made are honourable and right for the health and flourishing of the institution he has been chosen to lead.
When asked what students can do to contribute in these difficult times, the President says he wants to see students do what they do best. “Spread the good word,” says Dr. Krygsman emphatically. “Tell your family and friends about the wonderful education at Redeemer!” The truth is, our education is unique. Although it may feel like we are limiting ourselves by attending this small university, this couldn’t be further from the truth. A Christian liberal arts education is a gift we should not take for granted; in fact, it is a gift we need to talk more about.