Mount Allison University is hosting an open house today for potential new students, just a week after getting another feather in its cap from Maclean’s magazine’s long-running ranking of Canadian universities. For the 23rd time in the 32 years that Maclean’s has been publishing rankings of Canadian schools, the magazine gave Mount Allison the number one spot in the primarily undergraduate category, made up mostly of smaller universities.
“It is a nice number to have kind of in our back pocket,” says Mount Allison Students’ Union president Rohin Minocha-McKenney. “It is an area of pride, because at the end of the day, all of us in the Mount A community, whether [we feel] good or bad about Mount A, we do have some level of pride in what is here, and what we all contribute to the community.”
“I think we do deserve it,” says Minocha-McKenney, referring to more than just the formal institution. “There’s a lot of great things that happen at Mount A and even Sackville in general, that makes this the best undergraduate university experience in Canada.“
Not that there’s not still room for improvement, says the MASU president.
“We do have places to go. But I would say that people care in our whole community, and that care that goes in to our community and into Mount A, I think that’s why we really deserve number one.”
Hear Rohin Minocha-McKenney in conversation on Tantramar Report:
Mount Allison came first in four of the twelve categories the magazine ranked: operating budget, library expenses, scholarships and bursaries, and reputational survey. It came in second for student awards, and third for student/faculty ratio and faculty awards.
“We appreciate these kinds of reports to give us insights into what we can do to better improve the institution,” says university president Jean-Paul Boudreau. “But keep in mind that we also couple this kind of feedback with other kinds of feedback, such as internal feedback from students, student surveys.” Boudreau says the school is currently conducting focus groups with first year student led by Provost Jeff Hennessy. Part of that work is focused on positioning the school to grow in enrollment in the near future.
‘Thoughtful, careful growth’
“The demographic trends in Atlantic Canada are not always friends of small institutions,” says Boudreau. “Keeping a close eye on enrollment is an area that we’re very focused on.”
Boudreau says that’s why the school is focused on growing new academic programs. “We have had some enrollment increases over the last few years, modest as they are,” says Boudreau, “but we need to grow that.”
Hear Mount Allison president Jean-Paul Boudreau on Tantramar Report:
“It’s not growth for the sake of growth,” says Boudreau. “It’s really thoughtful, careful growth. And we have some programs that are doing really well. We have others where we see a need, where there could be additional support and growth.”
“Do we want to do you want to grow exponentially? No, we want to grow in a way that is appropriate, that speaks to the long term sustainability of the university.” says Boudreau. “And that is where management and the Board of Regents are very focused on right now.”
First place in tuition rates, too
In addition to a first place ranking with Maclean’s, Mount Allison also offers one of the most expensive undergraduate educations in the country. According to Statistics Canada data summarized by Universities Canada, Mount Allison had the highest undergraduate tuition for Canadian students in the country for 2021-2022.
Boudreau disagrees. “We are in the middle of the key group,” says Boudreau. “It is higher than others, but it’s not the highest by any means.” CHMA reached out to Mount Allison communications for clarification on that point, but have not heard back.
Boudreau says that affordability has not been sacrificed at Mount A. “We do very well in the area of student aid, scholarships, and bursaries,” he says. Indeed, Maclean’s ranked Mount A first in its size category for scholarships and bursaries, noting the school spends 11.1 per cent of its budget on that form of student support. “I think that speaks to the fact that we’re here to support our students, and we invest significant amount of money into support for students,” says Boudreau.
Small liberal arts schools for the win
“I think what’s really important to highlight here is that Mount Allison is a community of people,” says Boudreau. “Scholars, students, and exceptional staff. And I think these kinds of external validations support that and honour the direction, the trajectory of the university.”
“It is also about the value of liberal arts education,” says Boudreau, noting that Mount Allison’s fellow Maple League schools all ranked in the top seven for Maclean’s. “So that speaks to today’s students seeking innovative, 21st century liberal arts. That is exactly what Mount Allison is delivering, and we will continue to do that.”