The University of Calgary announced record enrolment at the school with 30,838 attending students, compared to 27,763 in 2007, an increase of over 11 per cent.
U of C registrar and associate vice-provost enrolment David Johnston said the boost is largely due to increased retention rather than new students entering the school.
"As the economy stays the way it is, some students are choosing to stay and finish their degree where as before they might take a year off to work," said Johnston. "Plus we've been doing a lot of work with the faculties to support students better to stay and complete their degrees here."
Students' Union president Lauren Webber said the increased enrolment is at least partly due to lack of jobs available but also believes it is a positive sign for the province.
"I think it's a very important thing because Alberta is quite below the Canadian average in our participation rates in post-secondary education," said Webber. "There's a gap there and 70 per cent of jobs in Alberta are going to require a post-secondary education in the next few years."
The increases come at a time when institutions across the province are experiencing reduced grants for operation expenses.
Johnston said economic planning for the school is simpler when faculties know they will retain a certain number of students. Retention of undergraduates moving from their first to second year increased to 86 per cent in 2010, up from just over 83 per cent in 2007.
"We're making sure that we're supporting those programs that students want, where there's demand," said Johnston. "When we do our new student admissions we're trying very carefully to keep it at a stable level and then the better our retention is, the easier it is for the academic departments to manage their year-two, year-three and year-four course offerings. In some ways it actually makes it easier in challenging budget times to support students because there isn't a stop where they take time off and come back in a year."
Webber said the U of C needs to ensure it can handle the student capacity before increasing it any further.
"If they're making more cuts to the teaching assistants and support staff that's definitely something we don't want to see," said Webber. "We would support the increase if that's something that we wouldn't be seeing."
Other Calgary post-secondaries, such as SAIT and Mount Royal University, saw their enrolment numbers stay relatively the same, something Johnston attributes to the U of C's larger size and number of education options.
"The more degree programs we have the more choices students have to stay and seek to complete the degrees that they choose to study in," said Johnston. "It's a capacity issue for all of us. We have limited classroom space and everyone is trying to manage around that and make sure we're not growing in areas that we can't support."
Johnston said there haven't been more problems than average this year with program overloads. Classes are moved to larger spaces when more students than expected enrol in a course within the first few weeks of the year.
"I think it just comes back to the university is doing this because of the situation the government has put them in, they're stuck between a rock and a hard spot," said Webber in regards to the increased class sizes at the school.
SU vice-president external Hardave Birk said the provincial government indicated there will be no additional funding for schools in the immediate future.
"We're still hopeful there's the possibility of base operating grants but right now it's looking likely that at every institution in Alberta there will be no increase for this year," said Birk.
The U of C plans to remain stable in terms of enrolment, expecting slightly over 30,000 students on campus this time next year.
Graduate student enrolment increased by 2.3 per cent and undergraduate enrolment increased 3.2 per cent from 2009.
The total number of new applicants to the school rose by 9.9 per cent from 2008 to 18,327.