The faculty of arts at Wilfrid Laurier University has implemented various initiatives over the past year to ensure the level of quality in the faculty is optimal.
More recently, on Friday, the faculty unanimously decided to bump the entrance average for arts from 74 per cent to 75.
This motion, while passed by the faculty, still needs to be passed by the senior administration at a senate and board meeting.
Last year it was moved up to 74 per cent from 72 in the 2010-11 academic year.
“I think we’re moving in the right direction. The average entrance marks for the arts at most universities in Ontario is the mid-seventies,” explained Mercedes Rowinsky-Geurts, the associate dean of student affairs and special projects. “So we’re up there with most competitive universities.”
“I think it also has raised the quality of students,” she added.
According to the acting dean of students at Laurier, Michel Desjardins, the faculty wants more of an emphasis on quality as opposed to quantity.
With government funding facing cuts in the near future, resources may be a bit more limited, especially if the faculty wants to take in less students.
“We would have lost about six per cent of our incoming students [for this year] and the faculty is still willing to do this,” said Desjardins if the increase in the average were to happen this year.
“If the government decides to cut resources to the university significantly in the next year or the year after, then we’ll play with what we’ve got.”
“If we shrink or if we grow, whatever we do has to be quality.”
He added that this situation of limited resources is not a situation unique to the arts faculty and that the business, music and science faculties will face these issues as well.
“Sure, it’s an issue. If I had my wish list I would have a scholarship for every student that studies abroad,” Desjardins continued.
“I think the whole university has to do with resourcing. All of us are dealing with that on a daily basis.”
While Rowinsky-Geurts thinks it’s a good idea, she said it needs to be taken with caution.
Universities can offer support programs that can actually allow a student who has a lower high school average to find their proper footing in first year, and to grow academically.
“I’m a bit cautious about entry averages. I believe a student in a university, if they find the right environment, can flourish,” she explained.
“One person with an 80 [per cent entrance average] can fall and a person with a 74 [per cent average] can find that here is the right environment.”
Some of the programs that the faculty of arts have implemented to improve the student experience have been first-year seminars, a new mentor program and the arts scholars program for high-achieving students.
“As far as we can tell, it’s been going well. It’s always difficult during the programs to assess, but the feedback has been really positive,” said Desjardins, particularly about the first-year seminars.
He noted that the faculty hopes to have 22 — two more than this year and 13 more than in 2011-12 — in the 2013-14 academic year.
Rowinsky-Geurts believes these programs will “break the barrier” for academic services and that they are more proactive for students in need. E-mails and other messages have been consistently sent out to students.
The mentor program, which also began this year, has divided the first-years into three groups so they have direct access to an academic advisor. Rowinsky-Geurts said that the reception by students has been positive.
“This kind of constant communication with them is showing a difference,” she said.