Some prospective Thompson Rivers University law students are upset, saying their offers have been rescinded and they won't be allowed to attend in the 2021-2022 school year after being told their spot in the school’s law school was secure.
Several students who applied took to online discussion forums and social media to express their frustration with the issue.
TRU, meanwhile, said it is normal to send acceptance letters to more students than there is room for, with the excess typically deferring their acceptance, refusing, not responding to the offer or accepting an offer at another university.
TRU law school dean Daleen Millard told KTW that in 2019, the school sent 274 offers, but only filled 114 of its 124 seats. Of those who didn't end up in the class, 103 declined, six deferred to the following year's intake and 64 withdrew. Of those who withdrew, 51 did so after accepting their offers.
The same scenario played out last year, with 296 offers going out. In 2020, the law school filled 122 seats, with 140 declining and 48 withdrawing, including 34 who had initially accepted.
"From offer to final, actually having the student in the seat, we always see quite a lot of movement," Millard said.
While over-offering appears to be a normal practice for the university, what isn't normal is the number of those who have declined or otherwise pursued other opportunities, leading to an excess of students for this year's upcoming class.
Millard said 26 students are currently on the waitlist for spots, after having received acceptance letters. Millard added that all students whose offers were rescinded have been offered a chance to defer their enrolment to the 2022-2023 school year.
One student, who contacted KTW, but asked to remain anonymous, said she received an acceptance letter in early April, which she accepted and paid a $500 non-refundable commitment fee. She planned to move to Kamloops to attend school in September, but received notice late last week that her spot was no longer hers.
And she's not the only one.
Prospective students took to the online discussion group The Canadian Law Forum, where people from across Canada gather to discuss their options and prospects with regards to law schools and the practice of law. Posts were also made to social media.
Some comments call the law school's reputation into question and speculate as to how it will impact the university and affected students. One poster commiserated, saying that in the past, by June they had already quit their job, moved house and signed a new lease where they were attending school.
"If the U of A did this to me, I would have been in a pretty terrible situation," they wrote.
But Millard is asking students to reject what she calls misinformation posted online. She said each of the 26 students on the waitlist will be dealt with individually, noting she had been speaking with students over the weekend.
"It's better to speak to me than it is to speak to Twitter, because I can offer you solutions. I can work with you to offer solutions. I can even cry with you,” Millard said. “It is still better than speaking to a faceless computer.”
It turns out the anomalous year is not unique to TRU. This year's law school cycle had already been noted by industry watchers to be more competitive than before, and now several universities in the United States are reporting they have also overenrolled at their schools.
Boston College, for example, reportedly accepted 415 deposits for a school with 250 seats, according to people posting on social media.
Millard said she has also heard of similar situations at Duke University, University of Pennsylvania and schools in California and Texas.
As for why this is happening, Millard said she can only speculate.
"We are in a very difficult world, post-COVID. Some people experience a euphoria and, for the first time in 18 months, there's hope with vaccinations,” she said. “That, I think, leads to people actually saying they want to do something, to change careers, to embark on a new journey.”
Millard believes people may be turning to law to make an impact and are feeling particularly compassionate following a long pandemic.
"These are commendable strategies and that is why I really want to work with these prospective students to see how we can assist them as best we can," she said.