Nova Scotia

NSCAD pins hopes on older students as enrolment dives

NSCAD university is experiencing an acute dip in enrolment this fall, but the art and design school says it's trying to stall the decline in student numbers by tapping into the "silver economy."

Student numbers down 15 per cent this fall, with 119 fewer full-time undergrads

NSCAD University suffered a 15.5 per cent decline in enrolment this fall. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

NSCAD university is experiencing an acute dip in enrolment this fall, but the art and design school says it's trying to stall the decline in student numbers by tapping into the "silver economy."

The number of full-time undergraduate students has shrunk 15.5 per cent from last year, the most significant decrease of any university in Atlantic Canada, according to figures released Thursday.

NSCAD president Dianne Taylor-Gearing says the school has been bracing for a drop in the number of students entering directly out of Nova Scotia high schools. Over the past six years, enrolment at the university has gone down an average of nine undergrad students per year. 

Now Taylor-Gearing hopes the university can capitalize on a new student base, what she calls "the silver economy" — retirees who may want to return to class.

"We hear from them already that perhaps always wanted to take a degree in art and design or take art and design classes, but just didn't have the opportunity and now they do have the opportunity," Taylor-Gearing said. 

NSCAD president Dianne Taylor-Gearing says the university won't be cutting any courses. (Courtesy NSCAD University)

Compared to last fall, the visual arts school has 119 fewer full-time undergrads and 34 fewer part-time students. Graduate student enrolment is up by 16 per cent, due to four additional students.

While there are plans to review the academic portfolio, there are no cuts to the school's course offerings because of the drop in students, Taylor-Gearing says.

However, the university does plan to vacate its Fountain Campus in historic buildings on Hollis and Granville Streets.  

"With fewer students, we don't require as much space," she said. "What we heard from our students was a sense of community, of being together, a critical mass of students, so the intensification of the Port Campus and the Academy Campus would achieve that."

The school also hopes to draw in people who studied at other colleges in hopes of filling out upper level classes in future years. 

Taylor-Gearing says there is room to increase the number of transfer and international students. She hopes focussing energies on that will cushion the school from any long-term impact of the drop. 

"It's always disappointing when it appears that student decline is actually going to have a big impact, however I'm actually very positive about the planning that NSCAD has in place."

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