There will be three hundred fewer science students at the University of Alberta this fall as the Faculty of Science considers cutting enrollment in the face of budget concerns.
"This is a very, very difficult decision for me. The reality is that anyone who wants a science education in this province should get a science education," Dean Jonathan Schaeffer told CBC News.
"We just can’t match the needs of Albertans."
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Schaeffer says the faculty is planning to raise its competitive average, now set at 80 per cent for a general science degree, in an effort to reduce enrollment from 6700 students to 6400.
They will raise the criteria again next year to shed another 300 positions.
"Over the past few years, the interest in science has been amazing. High school students have just flocked to the faculty of science," he said.
"But it is really a case of simple economics. The faculty of science has had its budget cut significantly over the past few years."
The news comes days after similar cost-cutting measures were announced by the Faculty of Arts, which plans to suspend 20 majors programs in response to budget pressures.
Postsecondary institutions all over the province are dealing with tighter budgets, after this year’s provincial budget cut operating funds to universities and colleges by nearly seven per cent.
"We’re under the gun to cut a significant part of our budget, and whatever fires we’re trying to put out are the same fires that other faculties are trying to put out."
Budget ended plans for growth
Schaeffer, who took over as dean of the faculty 13 months ago, says he started the position with plans to grow the faculty, including bringing in world-class researchers to expand certain areas.
Those plans, however, were halted on budget day.
"As of March 7th, everything is going the wrong way. All the optimism has been replaced with pessimism," he said.
Schaeffer says now, his focus is not on expanding the faculty, but rather making sure that it doesn’t shrink too much.
"Really, we’re in a damage control mode."
Like the Faculty of Arts cuts, the admission changes are not yet final. Schaeffer says they will have to wait until the fall to see what final admission rates are like.