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Is struggling Alberta economy leading to high Lethbridge post-secondary enrolment?

Click to play video: 'A big year expected for Lethbridge post secondary institutions' A big year expected for Lethbridge post secondary institutions
A big year expected for Lethbridge post secondary institutions – Aug 11, 2016

Local post-secondary institutions are starting to get an idea of how many students will be coming in for the next school year. Applications are pouring in to both the University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge College—and the numbers are looking up.

“Everything is looking really positive,” Lethbridge College assistant registrar Alison Grandmont said. “Our applications are actually up fifteen per cent.”

In addition to a significant increase in applicants, Lethbridge College’s official registration numbers are up 15 per cent from this time a year ago.

“Sometimes when the economy is a little bit down, you’ll see an increase in our applications,” Grandmont said. “Just because people will be coming back to school to try and maybe retrain or find another career path.”

The University of Lethbridge isn’t seeing nearly as significant an increase as the college, though they do expect some growth.

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“We do expect some increase,” University of Lethbridge vice provost Lesley Brown said. “We’re targeting at around two per cent greater than last year.”

The disparity in numbers between the two institutions could relate to people looking to re-enter the workforce as quickly as possible.

“The college offers accreditations in two years; at the University it takes four years. That may affect choices,” Brown said.

Unemployment is up across Alberta, including in the Lethbridge/Medicine Hat region. July’s rate rose to 7.6 per cent, up from 4 per cent a year ago.

“There’s anecdotal evidence that suggests that in an economic downturn that people want to do retraining, or look at other career options,” Economic Development Lethbridge CEO Trevor Lewington said. “Particularly if they’ve been downsized or laid off from a company.”

Not knowing what the next few years will bring for the Alberta economy, the trend of local post-secondary growth could continue.

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