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As students prepare for classes, UFV still over capacity

A guide shows new University of the Fraser Valley the under-construction student union building during Thursday
A guide shows new University of the Fraser Valley the under-construction student union building during Thursday's orientation.
— image credit: Tyler Olsen

By Alex Butler and Tyler Olsen

As the University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) celebrates its 40th year since its beginnings as Fraser Valley College in 1974, the institution is once again bursting with students.

Eric Davis, the provost and vice-president academic at UFV, estimates that enrolment will be around 15,000, similar to last year.

He said that while domestic registrations are down just over one per cent, international registrations are up about eight per cent. That results in additional courses, so international registrations do not decrease the availability of classes for domestic students. While some programs have waitlists, Davis said some are still open for applications.

The space capacity at UFV is still over 100 per cent, at around 110 to 115, but Davis said it’s down from previous years due to the construction of new buildings such as the student union building, slated to open in the spring.

In 2013/14, the Abbotsford campus was over capacity, with an estimate of about 128 per cent of the utilization rate for facilities.

UFV has campuses and locations in Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Hope, Agassiz, Mission and in Chandigarh, India.

Of the students from the Fraser Valley who go on to post-secondary education, about 70 per cent choose UFV.

That local focus was reflected at Thursday’s orientation, where most of the first-year students The News spoke to had grown up in Abbotsford.

“It’s close to home so it’s really convenient,” said Gina Parhar, who has enrolled in the university’s arts program. After watching her brother head to Metro Vancouver to study at Simon Fraser University, Parhar says studying in Abbotsford is more appealing.

“Living at home is easier and cheaper.”

Connections between UFV and other universities have also broadened the appeal of studying locally, at least for the initial years.

Langley’s Craig Boudreau was exploring the school Thursday after enrolling in the engineering transfer program, which allows students to take one or two years of classes at UFV before transferring to other universities, including the University of British Columbia.

“I have no idea [what to expect]. That’s why I’m here,” he said.

Sciences student Steph Uittenbosch chose UFV for a similar reason.

“It’s nice and close to home,” she said. “It has a good transfer program to UBC.”

Beside her stood friend Andry Friesen.

“They have a really good nursing program,” she said. “I’ve grown up here, my friends are here and my family’s here.”

Not all new students come from such close proximity.

Elsewhere on the Abbotsford campus, Arzoo Sandhu and three friends were also getting acquainted with the university grounds – even though they were all in their third year of study at UFV.

They had spent their first two years studying at the school’s India campus, which they said had amenities rarely seen in their country’s universities.

UFV’s India operation “is one of the only legitimate transfer programs,” Sandhu said.

“It stands out over there.”

Now she and her friends have come to Abbotsford to complete their education.

UFV now offers 100 programs, from master’s and bachelor’s degrees, diplomas, apprenticeship and trades training, and continuing studies.

A $15-million project to construct a new student centre began last year. It is set to be finished in 2015 and is hoped to alleviate some of the space issues, though it will not address issues of class sizes.

The university is expanding in other communities as well. In early August, it was announced that UFV would receive $2.1 million for training equipment for the Agriculture Centre of Excellence in Chilliwack.

UFV also received government funding for an additional 194 training spaces to help reduce waitlists for trades critical to the liquefied natural gas sector and other industries.

For the many students and staff who travel between UFV campuses, this year will see the continuation of  daily shuttle bus services.

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