Immigrant students more likely to pursue university, report

A university degree has become a very popular pursuit for Canadian youth, but according to a recent report from Statistics Canada it’s an even more popular trend for immigrant students. Statistics Canada reported that immigrants who arrive in Canada before age 12 are more likely to obtain a university education than Canadian-born students and this gap is said to be growing.

In attempting to explain the trend, the report stated that Canada has shifted its focus in immigrants towards countries where adults have traditionally had higher levels of education.

In agreement, Meaghan Coker, the president of Ontario Undergraduate Students’ Association (OUSA), said, “It’s not surprising that immigrant students are participating at a higher rate because of the point system. When adults have a degree they get a lot of points and are more likely to be approved.”

This is important as the immigrant child is able to see the costs and benefits of a university degree from their parents.

According to the study, in the 1960s men who immigrated had a university completion rate of about 6 percentage points higher than Canadian-born men. In the 1980s that gap grew to 12 percentage points. Nearly 32 per cent of men who immigrated in the 1980s obtained a university degree by the time they were 34.

However, Coker criticized the report for being too broad. “While on the whole it is true that immigrant students are going more often than domestic students, sometimes it is more dependent on their ethnicity. Asian parents are doing more for their children in terms of academic preparation versus Latin American or Caribbean students,” she said.

Coker warned that a report like this “may lead people to think that [immigrant students] are doing okay but that is not necessarily true.”

Coker emphasized the importance of parental engagement and early outreach programs such as Pathways to Learning. “A child has usually decided by grade eight whether they will attend university or college. So it is important for parents and institutions to emphasize education early on.” Developing pathways to learning eliminates barriers such as informational, motivational, cultural and physical barriers in order to make post-secondary education feasible for all.

Saad Aslam, vice president university affairs for Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ union, who comes from a Pakistani background and immigrated to Canada when he was two years of age, agreed that parental encouragement was the number one factor in his decision to attend university. “For me [university] was never an option,” he reflected.

Echoing Coker’s concerns, Aslam explained that the greatest barrier for him was financial and informational; some of which he was able to overcome through utilizing the internet and particularly websites like Studentawards.com.

Both Aslam and Coker agree that while the study is not surprising, immigrant students face the same kind of obstacles that domestic students face when looking towards post-secondary education. What is setting immigrant students apart is how they are able to use their resources to overcome these obstacles.

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