For today’s high school students, higher education is all about the job

Broadening one’s knowledge may be a worthy reason for pursuing higher education, but for tomorrow’s college and university students, the number one reason is to get a good job…

Toronto, August 21, 2012 – Broadening one’s knowledge may be a worthy reason for pursuing higher education, but for tomorrow’s college and university students, the number one reason is to get a good job.

According to a survey of 1,180 Ontario high school students in grades 10 and 11, commissioned by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO), tomorrow’s college and university students are decidedly job focussed today.  Almost 60% of students planning to attend university and 70% planning to attend college say their top reason is “to prepare for a specific job or career.”  “To get a good job” is the top rationale for 58% of university-bound and 75% of college-bound students.

Conducted in spring 2012 by Studentawards Inc., the survey indicates that less than 40% of university-bound and 13% of college-bound students cite “increasing my knowledge” as their top rationale for pursuing higher education.

In addition to their focus on jobs, more than 85% of high school students surveyed are concerned or very concerned about debt: having sufficient funds to pay for their education and their ability to repay postsecondary debt. 

The survey found that almost 80% of the students anticipate having to borrow funds for their education yet only 43% say they have “a great deal of knowledge” or “some knowledge” about the Ontario Student Assistance Program.  And almost 90% say they have little or no knowledge about the provincial government’s Repayment Assistance Program, available in Ontario as of 2010 to help borrowers who are having difficulty repaying their education loans. 

“The Ontario government offers a wide range of financial assistance programs and the challenge is ensuring students know about these programs early in their planning for postsecondary education,” says Fiona Deller, HEQCO’s executive director of policy and partnerships. “The low levels of awareness evidenced in this survey are especially troubling considering that the student sample comprises individuals who visit the website specifically for information about funding their education and would presumably be more knowledgeable about postsecondary financing.”

Previous HEQCO research notes that in Canada, overall knowledge of student financial aid is poor and that up to 20% of students are loan averse

A number of provincial government initiatives are underway to improve financial literacy and reduce barriers to postsecondary education. For example, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities is funding a pilot project, Life After High School, with the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation, a non-profit research organization. Patterned after a similar program in British Columbia, the pilot provides high school students with information about postsecondary education and financial aid, as well as guided assistance in completing the application forms.  The program is being tested in 87 Ontario high schools with low rates of transition to postsecondary education and is already showing promising results.

“As high school students prepare to make that transition, it’s not surprising that they link higher education to job prospects given their apparent anxiety about postsecondary debt,” says Deller. “HEQCO will delve into this controversial issue at our November 1-2 conference: Learning to Earning: Higher Education and the Changing Job Market.”

About the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario

The Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario is an arm’s-length agency of the Government of Ontario, established in 2005 to conduct research, evaluate the postsecondary education system and provide policy recommendations to the Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities to enhance the quality, access and accountability of Ontario’s higher education system. 

For further information, please contact:

Susan Bloch-Nevitte
Executive Director, Communications
Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario
(416) 212-5242 /