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High-school applicants shun York as strike drags on

From Tuesday's Globe and Mail

York University is considering cutting the size of next year's freshman class because of the sharp decline in applications for next September, the latest fallout from the strike that has cancelled most classes for 50,000 students since early November.

Robert Tiffin, York's vice-president of students, said the move may be necessary in order to maintain standards. The alternative would be to lower the required marks for incoming students.

The number of high-school students selecting York as their first choice for university fell by close to 15 per cent this year. The drop comes at a time when several other campuses in the Toronto area are experiencing double-digit increases in applications. A move by York to reduce numbers in its incoming class would increase the competition for freshman spots across the Toronto region, an area of the country where demand for undergraduate spaces is increasing.

"Given the dramatic decline, I think there is no question we will be looking at decreasing our intake," Mr. Tiffin said. "It is going to be a rebuilding process once the strike ends."

York, which traditionally receives the second highest number of first-year applications in the province behind the University of Toronto, dropped this year to fourth place behind Ryerson University and the University of Western Ontario, numbers released yesterday from the province's application centre show.

Mr. Tiffin attributed the decline to the lengthy strike by the university's teaching assistants and contract faculty. When the dispute will end remains unclear.

Yesterday, striking workers began to cast their ballots on the university's latest offer in a two-day supervised vote conducted by the Ministry of Labour at the request of York. Union officials are asking members to reject the deal.

Mr. Tiffin said a decision on the size of the incoming class will be made next month when demand from mature applicants and transfer students is clear.

Once the labour dispute is settled, efforts will be made to reach out to students who have expressed interest in York, including offers of financial support, Mr. Tiffin said. Work will also be required, he said, to retain current students.

John Milloy, Ontario Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities, yesterday expressed his frustration with the strike and said the drop in applications should be a concern to both sides in the dispute.

"We are going to remain optimistic that this vote is going to address the situation and we can get students back to the classroom," he said.

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