After years of steady growth, universities in the Maritime provinces have begun to experience declining enrolments, says a report released today, June 26, by the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission. Not only will universities have to contend with the traditional student pool shrinking by as much as 14 per cent over the next decade, they also face increasing competition from community colleges, and a strong labour market. In addition, findings suggest that in an increasingly competitive environment, universities with lower tuitions within the Maritimes may be less likely to experience a decline in enrolment than those with higher tuitions. The report, titled Surveying the Enrolment Landscape: Factors and Trends in Maritime University Enrolment 2000-01 to 2006-07, analyzed data from a number of sources to shed light on the recent enrolment trends. “We conducted this study at the request of our stakeholders who wanted to learn more about the factors behind the recent and unexpected decline in enrolment in Maritime universities observed over the last two years,” said Mireille Duguay, chief executive officer of the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission. “What we learned is that several converging factors — including institutions in other regions with lower tuition fees, the growing popularity of community colleges, a strong economy, and out-migration from the region — have recently taken larger shares of the traditional pool of Maritime university students,” said Ms. Duguay. “And this pool itself is shrinking, which will result in very real challenges for the region’s universities over the next decade.” If these trends continue, it will place downward pressure on enrolment and compound the effect of anticipated demographic decline. However, a shift in any one factor could dampen the effect of the decline. The Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission was established in 1974. The 20 members are drawn from the Maritime provinces and represent higher education institutions, provincial governments and the general public. Its mission is to assist institutions and governments to enhance the post-secondary learning environment. The commission collects and maintains data about student enrolment and credentials and conducts research on the Maritime postsecondary sector. Reports and research articles are available free on the website www.mphec.ca .