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Few Ontario high schoolers with C averages go to university, says report
If you just graduated high school with an average of between 60 and 69 per cent and are attending university this fall, you are part of a very select group.
The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario today released a report examining post-secondary participation rates in Ontario and the rest of Canada. Among the most glaring findings: only 4.8 per cent of students who graduate high school with a C average pursue university. That compares to almost 16 per cent of C-level Atlantic Canadians and 15.1 per cent of British Columbians who scored a C in high school but still pursued university.
However, nearly half of all Ontarians with a “C” high school average went on to attend college. That’s the second-highest college participation level in the country, only topped by Quebec’s participation rate. Quebec’s high rate of college enrolment is partly explained by the fact that in the province, high school ends in grade 11; students thereafter attend CEGEP for either university preparation (the equivalent of grade 12/13 in other provinces) or vocational diplomas.
Trent University economics professor Torben Drewes, who specializes in the economics of education and authored the study, said that it lends credence to the idea that Ontario universities simply have stricter entrance requirements.
“That result, the “C” student in Ontario … is consistent with the idea that Ontario universities are setting a higher bar … but that’s not definitive,” he said. “We don’t have that kind of information. A couple of people have alluded to it, but we have no real hard evidence.”
Drewes added that the study shows that by and large, those students who want to pursue post-secondary studies in Canada are able to do so. He pointed to the success of Ontario’s “double cohort” in 2003-04, when universities and colleges weathered a huge bulge in applications and enrolment. Drewes said that the province, its universities, and its colleges responded to any perceived “crisis” quite admirably.
“In the larger context, I think we should be pretty happy with the availability of spaces,” Drewes said.
The report also found that 70.6 per cent of Ontario’s high school graduates between the ages of 18 and 24 pursue some form of post-secondary education. That compares to 82.9 per cent in Quebec, 76.3 per cent in Atlantic Canada, 63.8 per cent in British Columbia, and 63 per cent across the Prairies.
As far as barriers to PSE are concerned, the report found that financial barriers posed the biggest problem for potential students. Only 20 per cent of Quebec students, however, claimed financial barriers to be an issue. Nearly as many (19.6 per cent) were simply uninterested in pursuing higher education. 28.8 per cent of students in the Prairies were uninterested, compared to 29.3 per cent who faced financial barriers.
Drewes was quick to point out that the study was by no means the final word on access to post-secondary education in Ontario, or anywhere else in Canada.
“The report is kind of preliminary to the real research that will go on now. It doesn’t have as many answers as it does questions,” he said.
The information in Drewes’ report was based on Statistics Canada’s 2002 Post-secondary Education Participation Survey.
Four out of five young people take some kind of post-secondary education by the time they reach their mid-twenties, according to new Statistics Canada data released Tuesday. But of those, almost one in seven students drop out. It also showed that urban students and those living with both parents more likely to pursue higher education.
Urban students and those living with both parents more likely to pursue higher education
Four out of five young people take some kind of post-secondary education by the time they reach their mid-twenties, according to new Statistics Canada data released Tuesday. But of those, almost one in seven students drop out.
The report, called the Youth in Transition Survey, looked at how young people shift between high school, post-secondary education, and work. The survey contacted the same sample group every two years starting in 1999 to track transitions. It also noted contributing factors such as demographic, family background, and school situation.
By September 2005, 79 per cent of the sample group had attempted post-secondary education. Half of those had attended university, one third had enrolled at a college or CEGEP, and less than one fifth had studied elsewhere such as at a private college.
The 2005 participation rate of 79 per cent was a large jump from the outset of the study. In 1999, when the sample group was 18 to 20 years old, only 54 per cent were taking post-secondary education. But the 2005 participation rate was only two per cent higher than the rate from 2003, indicating that number of the sample group attending post-secondary education had plateaued by the time they were 24 to 26 years old.
Despite the rise in post-secondary participation, 15 per cent of those who gave post-secondary education a shot dropped out. The main reason for students dropping out is that they didn’t like the program, according to Danielle Shaienks, project leader for the survey. But financial barriers were also a major reason.
The data showed that a students’ experience in their first year of study was crucial to whether they would graduate from the program. Students who dropped out were already struggling in their first year with deadlines, academic performance, and study patterns.
But selecting the right program is also an important indicator of whether a student will drop out. Most graduates had tried more than one program before settling on their educational course, while two thirds of dropouts had only tried one program.
Shaienks noted that this data shows that students who are likely to drop out can be identified early. The report stated, “Learning strategies develop early, often before starting postsecondary education.” Half of post-secondary dropouts report doing more than three hours a week of homework during high school compared to over three quarters of graduates.
Although the study didn’t track parental income, some people speculated that financial barriers were an issue. NDP education critic Denise Savoie believes that Canada’s financial aid system has not leveled the playing field for students and that all qualified students should be able to access finding to assist ensure access to higher education.
“I’ve advocated the government to establish a comprehensive needs-based grant system. That solution would help to some extent with some of those issues,” she said. “All competent, motivated students who are qualified should have access to grants.”
The survey also demonstrated that more women participate in post-secondary education than men, although the gap had not changed since 1999. Also, visible minorities were more likely to pursue higher education, especially university.
Students from rural backgrounds were less likely to go on with their education and more likely to drop out if they did attempt post-secondary studies. They were more likely to attend college than university, possibly because colleges are closer to home. They were also less likely to go on in university after completing their first diploma or degree.
This is troublesome, says Savoie, who noted that there are no federal grants that target rural students. “The complexity of our student aid system and its inadequacy doesn’t make it easy for students to access,” she said, and went to say that grants should also target aboriginal students.
“The bottom line is that we have to move away from considering education to be a private good,” Savoie said. “Education costs should not be prohibitive for lower and middle class families. As a society, we benefit as a whole. It’s not just about producing students who can fit like cogs into the economy.”
Family structure also seems to play a role in who pursues and successfully completes post-secondary education. A larger portion of students living with both parents during high school went on to post-secondary and were more likely to graduate than others.