By Dorothea Helms
Special to The Toronto Sun
The year 1997 represented a major shift in Ontario's education system, when the government announced the new four-year program for high schools across the province.
The Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities' publication "Ontario Update: Ontario's Plan for Students in the Double Cohort Summer 2002," reports that: "Students now in Grades 11 and 12 are part of what will be the single largest increase in post-secondary education in a generation."
Labeled the "double cohort," this surge is the result of the first students in the new four-year program graduating at the same time as the last of the students in the Ontario Academic Credit (OAC) five-year program.
The report also states that: "Students at Ontario's colleges and universities are now beginning to see the results of the single largest investment in post-secondary institutions infrastructure in more than 30 years.
Through Super-Build (www.superbuild.gov.on.ca), the Ontario government and its partners are investing $1.8 billion in campuses across the province to meet the projected increase in demand for spaces in Ontario's colleges and
Timing really is everything.
The government's comprehensive plan for the double cohort includes, among other things, provisions to double the number of entrants to apprenticeship programs for students who don't go on to college or university.
Post-secondary educational institutions in Ontario have also been preparing for the double cohort, and those in other provinces see the situation as an opportunity.
Last June, Mordechai Rozanski, chair of the Council of Ontario Universities (COU), said, "COU is delighted to announce that the joint planning between Ontario's universities and your ministry, as well as your government's budget commitment to full grant funding for enrolment growth, have resulted in the good news for students and parents that admissions for fall 2002 are on track to accommodate the increased numbers of students seeking to attend university... the assurances given by government that the increased numbers of qualified and motivated students would be accommodated are proving to be absolutely correct."
Although not dramatic yet, ripples from the double cohort phenomenon are already being felt across Ontario and the rest of Canada. Anticipating increased competition for post-secondary seats next fall, many Ontario high school students fast tracked and are starting their post-secondary education this year.
Louise Taylor, acting associate registrar for the University of Alberta, says, "We've been preparing for possible increased enrolment as a result of Ontario's double cohort for years. We have actively recruited in the province, and we hope to attract some top-level students."
According to Bruno Rocca, manager of student recruitment at the University of Victoria, "We do expect an increase in applications from Ontario double cohort students. Our applications from Ontario students have been increasing over the past two to three years, but not dramatically.
We hope that when students look out of province for a school, we'll be their first choice."
The situation in Ontario is more positive than parents and students realize. Margaret Greenley, v-p. of student and employer success for Durham College, stresses fairness in dealing with the double cohort issue.
"Treating students of both programs equitably is a commitment we feel strongly about," Greenley says. "At Durham College, both the Ontario School:
Intermediate Secondary Program and new Ontario Secondary School curriculum will receive equitable evaluation for 2003-2004 admissions."
Like most colleges and universities in Ontario, Durham College has been preparing for years with new programming and additional seats, services and
financial support. The college even established a position for double cohort co-ordinator to liaise with high schools, parents and students.
"We have seen an increase in enrolment from the double cohort already," Greenley says. "To date, our confirmed acceptances for year one are up by 14.6%, and we've seen a 27% increase in applicants. We're also a growth region, and the announcement of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology on our campus has attracted more students."
York University (www.yorku.ca) president Lorna R. Marsden, Ph D, says that York is looking forward to welcoming double cohort students. "We are adding to our complement of exceptional faculty and staff and construction is under way on seven new buildings. We are also working with local transportation authorities to facilitate student access to our campuses."
Bring on the double cohort -- Ontario and the rest of Canada are ready!
(Dorothea Helms (email@example.com)
is an internationally published
freelance writer who co-owns a communications firm with her husband.)
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