Laurier in danger of being known as ‘last chance university’

Wilfrid Laurier University’s reputation has been debatable for some time now. Last Friday at the faculty of arts council meeting, the thunder was brought down upon this entire debate. The proposition? Raise the admissions average for incoming arts majors. The premise of the discussion was that the reputation of the school is undoubtedly on the brink of becoming “Last Chance U” or worse than “If you can walk and talk you can go to Brock.”

While my friends at Brock could immediately disagree with their reputation, it’s hard to argue what impact a bad reputation can have on a school and its admissions.

As a university, Laurier wants to attract top students: the brains and innovators, the leaders and creators, but without a great reputation for Canadian “excellence,” we risk becoming a mediocre university in a sea of quality Canadian institutions. This is due, in large part, to the admissions average of 2011 hanging out at a meagre 73 per cent.

While high school grades are arguably already inflated, a 73 per cent in high school is considered well below what other schools demand. McGill University requires an 86.8 per cent for admission to arts programs while Western, considered a comparable school to Laurier, requires low 80s.

All of these figures inherently say something about a school’s reputation. While the best and brightest among us may not have received outstanding 90-plus per cent grade averages in high school and extra-curricular activities in high school should also be considered, these standards are primarily indicative of a school’s prestige. Schools in the United States rely on the Standardized Admissions Test (SAT) to determine a student’s capabilities and is weighted heavily in admissions considerations.

The obvious problem with talking about admissions averages restoring the reputation of Laurier is that faculty budgets and funding are based largely in part upon the number of students we admit. A couple of weeks ago it was reported in The Cord, and confirmed at the council meeting, that arts admissions have gone down about ten per cent, leaving already starving departments meagre amounts of funding. We need to admit more students but we need to do it without lowering our admissions average to the point where Laurier is considered the last choice. We also can’t lose any more funding.

So then, my proposition, although laughed at by many a faculty member and worried staff, is to raise the admissions average to 78 per cent. Because the amount of students with an 80 dramatically increases before tailing off at 90, according to a report by Alan Slavin, and the amount of Ontario Scholars (students with an 80 per cent or higher upon graduation) increases every year, Laurier could benefit from jacking up the average.

By raising the admissions average, we
would be picking from an entirely
different pool of students, snatching
up those who would otherwise have
chosen Western or Queen’s.

It would lower the stress on administrators and advisors who are responsible for assisting the students, who once admitted, fail out or scrape by in first year. Dropouts would likely tailor off, creating stable funding and budgeting, and ideally a school more students would transfer to.

While funding is always a concern, the amount of students declining offers from Laurier would likely decrease as our reputation albeit slowly returns to being a quality school. More students would want to come here because as a school we no longer “fill space.” Professors would have fewer masses of students who require extra help on the material; TAs would enjoy marking papers that aren’t flooded with spelling and grammatical errors.

There are really many pros to raising the minimum entrance admission average. It would even help current students out, by providing some kick to the devalued arts degree, or giving that extra boost on a grad school application. We can promote Laurier all we want, and provide some of the best programs and professors in the country, but with a crap reputation we might as well be handing out degrees and become a revolving door of half-wits.

But whatever students come in with, that doesn’t mean they’ll fail or that they’re incapable — I was one such student who didn’t get 90s in high school. The day I got into Laurier I thought it was a joke, because I didn’t think my grades were good enough. This was almost four years ago, and although there are always great bright students who turn on all the engines and graduate successfully, there are too many who are not on track to do so.