Colleges respond to classroom crunch

After a recession that has left many jobless in the province, Ontario colleges are finding themselves overrun with applicants.

The province reports that the number of mature student applicants in particular is up by 20 per cent. The resulting crush in Ontario college classrooms could get a lot worse than it already is.

Centennial College is one of the many post-secondary schools in the GTA trying to solve an over-crowding problem. Mark Toljagic is Centennial’s communications officer.

“It has been especially hard at our Morningside campus where we were already challenged for space,” he said. “We have expanded our section offerings and hired additional instructors to accommodate the demand.”

But according to education critics, such as Conservative Jim Wilson, more permanent solutions are needed. Wilson suggested earlier this month the re-opening of old factories and closed stores to act as makeshift classrooms.

Ontario colleges have suggested something different—more funding. The colleges are demanding $160 million from the government to create the space they need.

Humber College’s Vice-President of Student Services, John Mason, thinks an increase in funding would help.

“Humber receives the largest number of applications of any college in the province,” Mason said. “Additional funding would allow us to expand to meet demand for programs at the Lakeshore campus and expand options at the North Campus where some of the greatest growth in the number of students is occurring.”

Premier Dalton McGuinty promised he’d address the “college space crunch” in his government’s budget next month.

But Centennial College has already begun plans to expand its Progress Campus in Scarborough by summer.

“The Scarborough Centre for Alternative Studies (SCAS), which adjoins Progress, has been approved for sale to the college,” Toljagic said. “The plan is to acquire the building when school ends in June and renovate it in time for classes in the fall.”

Toljagic says that while Centennial wasn’t prepared for such an increase in college hopefuls, there is light at the end of tunnel.

“There is good news on many fronts as we are expanding to accommodate our growth, and the economy is beginning to recover,” he said. “Both of these will go a long way to alleviating the “crunch.”

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