Opinion

Muskens: Number of high school grads heading to college is growing

It’s now been nine years since the Ministry of Advanced Education began tracking how many high school student go on to either college or university.

Since 2001 the number of students who went straight from high school to a post-secondary institution without a gap year has increased by 10 per cent.

Today there is a 77 per cent chance that a student graduating from a B.C. high school will enroll in higher education by the time they reach 30 years of age.

Young women right out of high school are still leading the charge with the highest rates of direct transition to college or university at 54.5 per cent compared to boys at 51.2 per cent.

Aboriginal students enrolling in a post-secondary institution over the past five years has increased from 37.4 per cent to 40.1 per cent.

This is important as the aboriginal youth population has one of highest growth rates in the province.

In the last five years by region Surrey, Delta and Richmond have seen the number of high school students who go on to post secondary increase by 21.7 per cent: the largest increase in the province.

The Douglas College region (which includes New Westminster, Burnaby and Coquitlam) came in second at 14.5 per cent, followed by Vancouver at 11.4 per cent.

The Okanagan was fourth on the list with a participation rate increase of 8.9 per cent.

Government reports attribute growth in transition rates to a number of variables.

The first is additional post-secondary seats and expanded degree opportunities in B.C. public post-secondary institutions.

Second, the government created the new teaching-intensive universities that were able to create new programming at the degree level.

The economy also played a role depending on the region. If a region has a strong economy where employment is tied to skilled workers, it can increase participation rates. If the economy is tied to unskilled labour, fewer young adults (mostly male) will choose to not pursue a college or university credential.

If the economy is poor and there are not many good paying jobs, young adults tend to stay in school longer, and college and university enrolments increase.

Most students who went straight from high school to post-secondary tended to enroll in B.C.’s research universities, such as UBC, UVic, SFU and UNBC. In 2002, 33 per cent of high school graduates enrolled in these schools. By 2009 this number increased to 38 per cent. Thirty per cent of students went to community colleges with another 28 per cent enrolling in the new teaching universities with the remaining five per cent going to technical institutes such as BCIT.

One of the most interesting parts of the report was the change in the type of credential students have pursued over the last nine years.  Although there was a 35 per cent increase in students enrolling in bachelor degrees there was a 91 per cent increase in students going into apprenticeships. This is important for the current and anticipated skills shortage.

Overall, students enrolling in Human and Social Service programs had the highest increase at 125 per cent, followed by health programs at 92 per cent. Business students increased by 40 per cent whereas students entering education programs such as Bachelor of Education programs decreased by 24 per cent.

Canada has one of the highest rates of participation in post-secondary education and these numbers just show it’s getting higher: that’s a positive sign for the future of our country and province.

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