Pursuing college after undergrad
87 per cent of Ontario college students are either satisfied or very satisfied with the knowledge and skills acquired from their programs. This percentage was found in HEQCO’s (Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario) 2010-2011 Annual Report and is a clear justification that college programs and degrees are on the rise.
What is being found in recent years is that college is not only a suitable choice for high school students, but also a potential successful career choice for postgraduates from university.
“We have noticed a trend in students pursuing college after university,” said Chris Walker, vice president of university affairs at Wilfrid Laurier University. Walker explained that “especially right now with the economy the way it is, university students are having a hard time applying their knowledge to a specific career path.”
He added that, “It is very difficult to become employed right now.”
Since the demand for employees is largely in the work trade, explained Matthew Armstrong, vice president: external at SAIT Polytechnic Students’ Association in Alberta, employers are seeking people who have “hands on training and experience” and can be immediately helpful.
“Having knowledge, that’s great, but what [employers] want, especially with the shortage of workers at times, is being able to put that person in a place where they’re productive from day one.”
According to Walker, university graduates are finding that, while their degrees are certainly not obsolete, they’re limited.
“It’s not a real surprise that this is happening,” explained Walker. “However I don’t think it is necessarily an indicator that university is any less valuable than it was before.”
College and university offer two fundamentally different skill sets —application versus critical thinking—and it’s difficult to compare based on value. However, for post-graduate students looking for immediate employment, an application-based degree, that compliments your undergrad, could push someone further ahead.
Zach Dayler, national director for the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA), explained that post-grads that pursue college are “[given] an opportunity for almost a refinement of skills and the opportunity to apply that kind of knowledge that you learn in a university program in a more specific way.”
Dayler also said that, while some university degrees, such as political and general science, are great for learning.
“When it came to the practical application of that degree in a job sense, it can be a huge struggle,” he said. With today’s ultra-competitive job market, if graduate students want to be immediately successful, a college-based job could be a suitable option. Walker added that, “[In terms of] pursuing further education, college is cheaper, it’s one, two and three-year diplomas, as opposed to three, four and five-year degrees.
“It’s kind of an option to further educate yourself and make yourself more competitive in the working environment in a cost-effective manner.”
Armstrong also commented on Alberta’s raising college enrollment and said that they, “have seen an increase in those students coming back after university degrees, even after masters and doctorates.”
“We can see that increasing numbers are not happening in Ontario, but on a national level as well,” he said.
As well, HEQCO indicated in their annual report that the number of college students who are university graduates had increased by two per cent in 2009-10 compared to a decade earlier.
Armstrong concluded simply with, “[You] go to university to find yourself, [you] go to college to find a job.”