Grad numbers up, OUAC shows
Monthly reports run by the Ontario Universities Application Centre (OUAC) on secondary school confirmation statistics show that as of June 2012, 70,000 students had accepted an offer to an Ontario University, which is a 2.7 per cent increase from 2011.
George Granger, executive director of Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC), believes this growth may be due to a public confidence in the inherent value of a university degree.
“The economy is becoming more knowledge based, which places an emphasis on the skill set that comes from a university experience. Forty years ago a high school diploma would get you a good entry-level job, and today you need a basic undergraduate degree just to get your foot in the door,” he said
“If you want to avail yourself to advanced opportunities you need that undergrad experience as a foundation. Students, parents and counselors are seeing this value and that’s why there’s growth in enrollment,” added Granger.
Zach Dayler, national director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA) noted that while said mitigating factors may be true, there are certain implications.
“There’s a narrative that exists in our heads that ‘you have to go to university to be successful’ and that’s a really damaging idea, because you don’t need to get an undergraduate degree to be successful,” said Dayler.
“That’s one of the first problems that’s out there, looking at university as the only avenue for success.”
These trends have long-term implications as well. The increase in undergraduate students over the past decade has led to a subsequent increase in the number of students completing their degrees.
This has the potential to create problems for new entrants to the labour market.
“Although there are a number of factors that contribute to a saturated job market, one is correct in assuming that it will be more competitive as more people enroll and graduate,” Dayler affirmed
He added, “On top of that you have the Old Age Security (OAS) changes, which may not affect you for a while, but will keep people in their jobs longer, delaying recent graduates access to the labour market.”
On the other hand, a 2008 survey conducted by the Council of Ontario Universities shows that the post-graduate job search may not be as difficult as is presumed.
The survey reported, “Over 91 per cent of 2008 graduates surveyed were employed within 6 months of graduation.” The average annual salary for these graduates was $42,904.
Although these numbers may paint a positive picture, Dayler pointed out that factors such as the high cost of living and loan payments are left out of the equation.
“When your debt levels are above what your pay levels are, you are on a treadmill until you can get into another job, which may not happen for a number of years,” Dayler commented.
“Its not all bad,” he added.“I think these trends will force us to make necessary changes to our university and college structures.”
“The increase in enrolment is positive, but we must consider how can we encourage people to pursue education at every level,” Dayler concluded.
“We need to be more honest, because at the end of the day, it’s an issue of where are you going to be passionate and inspired?”