Improving campus life, student services and number of programs crucial to university’s prosperity
Kevin Kapenda // News Editor
After spending much of the last six months settling into his new role, President Paul Dangerfield is looking forward to addressing the challenges facing Capilano University.
“What I’ve really enjoyed, right to the bottom of my heart, is learning about each of the programs in detail and getting to know the students, faculty and staff on a deeper level. I’ve had lots of opportunities where staff, faculty or students have invited me to participate in different events,” said Dangerfield.
“By a country mile, it’s been the most enjoyable part of my time here so far. I see next year about rolling up my sleeves and getting to business. These last six months has been about familiarizing myself with the different programs.”
One major hurdle smaller institutions in BC have been battling, with CapU facing the biggest fight of them all, is declining domestic enrolment. To that point, Dangerfield believes it is not so much fluctuations in different categories of students that matter, but maintaining stable participation rates as a whole.
“We have seen some challenges with some of our programs, in particular with domestic students, but if you actually look at the overall enrollment numbers, including Aboriginal and International students, the university’s enrollment has remained quite stable.”
CapU’s domestic enrolment has fluctuated in the last few years, leading to minor financial uncertainty. In fall 2012, over 8,500 domestic students were registered for classes through Nov. 1. However, by fall 2015, that number had dropped to just over 6,600, with numbers for fall 2016 yet to be released by the Ministry. Conversely, the trend has been the exact opposite for international students, who in fall 2012 accounted for only 625 of all students on campus.
Since then, that number has continued to climb, with 890 international students enrolled in fall 2015. Overall, over 9,100 students attended CapU in fall 2012, whereas in fall 2015, that number had sunk to 7,515 – a glass-half-empty or half-full, depending on the way the numbers are interpreted.
However, for Dangerfield, the downward rate of enrolment needs to change. “Our priorities are looking after our [existing] students and creating more programs,” he said. “What we want to do is increase the number of programs we have, so that students have more choices with regard to coming here and staying here.”
Taking more of a structural approach to raising enrolment, Dangerfield is optimistic that his plans to create more programs over the next half-decade or so, will result in significantly higher participation. “What I can commit to over the next number of years is to add two to three new programs annually for the next five years. If you do the math on that, we currently have 12 degrees and our other programs. By doubling that to 24 degrees, we will double the number of students on campus.”
MORE STUDENTS, LESS GOVERNMENT SUPPORT
According to the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators (FPSE), per-student operating grants from the Provincial Government to universities have remained at since 2002, the year former BC Liberal Premier, Gordon Campbell, tabled the province’s first post-NDP budget. While CapU’s enrolment is down, the overall trend, per FPSE, has resulted in a 20 per cent decline since 2001, factoring inflation and higher enrolment province-wide.
“This government is in a difficult situation, as any government would be. That’s in part because there are more students in universities than there has ever been and we anticipate demand will continue to grow,” Dangerfield said. “Not only are students attending once, but they’re coming back to re-train themselves. Meanwhile, the amount of money in the pot is not necessarily getting any bigger, which means that on the institutions’ end, we’re not seeing any more money, but have to deliver more programming for more students.”
This need for institutions to raise more funds on their own is a hitch Dangerfield relishes and believes will require creativity to address. “The overall pot is not going to get any bigger, so at a university like our own, we have to get smarter at how we do things. We just need to look at new ways of bringing in revenues,” said Dangerfield.
“These sources could be from the Federal Government, they’re really investing in technology and investing; an applied research agenda here would actually help us bring more money in; partnering with industry, maintaining our robust international program to sustain what we’re doing right now and new programs at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.”
According to the FPSE, operating grants to universities have remained frozen from the provincial government since the Liberals took power in 2002. With increasing numbers of post-secondary students and inflation, FPSE claims that frozen operating grants have resulted in a 20 per cent net decrease in per-student, post-secondary funding.
BUILDING ON RECENT SUCCESS
Aside from challenges, Dangerfield is also looking forward to building on all the great things the university is doing and rallying the campus community to share these accomplishments with the world around us.
“Whether it’s our business students winning down in New Orleans, or Jazz students and faculty winning at the Juno’s, animation students doing incredible things in the lm industry, my challenge to everybody is that when I bring people onto the campus, they don’t know we are doing these great things,” said Dangerfield.
“It’s really important for all us at the university to help get that word out. So, whether it’s an award that we’ve won or an article you’ve seen, every one of us needs to be sharing that on social media and getting the word out that we’ve got incredible students, faculty and staff doing amazing things.” 2017-18 is shaping up to be a busy year for the president, and a pioneering one. From creating more programs and addressing housing, to the campus master and location of the new student union building, this upcoming school year will set the priorities of the university for quite some time.
2017-18 is shaping up to be a busy year for the president, and a pioneering one. From creating more programs and addressing housing, to the campus master and location of the new student union building, this upcoming school year will set the priorities of the university for quite some time.