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This article was published 26/7/2010 (4103 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A new cap on class size in the University of Manitoba's nursing faculty has left some students fuming after learning their studies have been put on hold.
But the faculty's dean says the cap is meant to benefit fourth-year students, whom she says were told about the plans at their orientation in March.
Nursing students contacted the Free Press after showing up to enrol for classes last week and early this week, only to find key courses were full.
"They're saying there's a nursing shortage, but they aren't giving us the resources to actually graduate enough nurses," student Myla Fernandez said.
She and other students sought help from the registrar's office, to no avail.
"The best thing they could do is put us on the waiting list, but really, nobody's going to drop out," she said.
Student Marlena Dupuis isn't sure what she'll do come fall. "This is my fourth year, my last semester, and now I'm not going to be able to graduate on time, basically," she said.
Faculty of Nursing dean Dawna Crooks said students were told in early spring that changes were coming down the pipeline.
"They were warned that we were controlling the numbers in the courses by semester, and that if their GPA was lower, they would have more difficulty," she said.
Some students said they didn't realize the announcement was definite. "They didn't give us a sure guarantee that this is what was going to happen," Chantal Ramos said. The students don't want to cause problems, said Ramos, they just want to graduate.
Crooks said the faculty decided to try capping student numbers based in part on past problems with unpredictable enrolment figures and class sizes getting too large.
"In past years, we have bent over backwards to accept just about everybody, at the detriment of faculty, and the detriment of students as well," she said.
Enrolment is unpredictable year to year, said Crooks, based on a fluctuating number of students from Red River College's joint program coming over for their fourth year, and some U of M students taking leaves, dropping courses or failing courses. One year, they wound up with 100 more students than anticipated, she said.
When it comes to clinical placements, resources are limited, meaning "we have more students than we have people to cover," Crooks said. Trying to squeeze in everybody stretched staff too thin, and bringing in extra staff at the last minute harmed the quality of the courses, she said.
The faculty hopes to set a cap of 100 students per course, though there is some wiggle room. Crooks wouldn't speculate on how many students might be affected by the changes, saying that number won't be clear until early August. Some students who couldn't get into courses might still be accommodated, she said. "We can't tell until all of them have registered."
Crooks took issue with students referencing a nursing shortage, at least in Winnipeg, saying the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's vacancy rate is a relatively low five to eight per cent.