Slackers unite!

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The University of Calgary recently announced 1,000 of the 2,500 new student spaces created at the planned urban campus will be set aside for students who would typically not have the marks to get into university.

"The programming we envision at the urban campus... has been fashioned to provide a gateway for students who are having some of the most trouble accessing university and who would be unlikely to succeed if they were required to go to university by being at our main campus full-time," said U of C president Dr. Harvey Weingarten in his annual report to the community.

The idea that students with lower averages will potentially be admitted over those with higher marks is ludicrous. Even if high school grades aren't the best measure of intelligence--or potential to succeed--accepting less than the best our schools offer devalues the work put into a high school diploma. If we take away the one system of placement we have, then why would anyone work hard in high school at all? Just because students with marks in the 75 per cent range are unable to find spaces in Alberta's post-secondary system, that doesn't mean more accomplished students should give up their space.

Not that the potential for slackers to get into university wasn't there before, but there's an even greater risk that valuable resources will be squandered on students not quite ready for university.

If people with lower grades can't get into the program of their choice in their first try, there are many other gateways to eventually receive a degree from this institution. Mount Royal offers transfer programs in kinesiology and business, among others. Applicants can apply into faculties with lower admission standards--such as general studies--build up their grades in university, and move into their desired faculty.

Setting aside spaces just for gateway students is unnecessary because the mere expansion of the number of seats at the university should address that very problem.

"We do not turn away these students because we... think they're unqualified," said Weingarten. "Rather, we simply do not have the room."

If room is the issue, then the university should focus on expanding the total number of seats rather than setting aside spaces for students with lower averages.

Weingarten also mentioned how some students would be unable to succeed if they were required to be at our main campus, yet he gave no indication of how the urban campus will better provide for their seemingly special needs. A campus in the downtown core will offer far less insulation. If nothing else, the main campus at the U of C surrounds students with all the resources necessary to excel academically.

"But I'm also aware that there are students with grades in the mid-70s, people who would go on to become outstanding citizens and leaders, who are simply not getting into university or who, at this point, don't even bother to apply," said Weingarten.

It is easy to be discouraged by the high admission standards of university and the potential to be turned away, but Alberta--and the U of C--should address space shortages without taking students by the hand.

Forget opening up the school to gateway applicants and give those spaces to the potential students with the highest grades.