Dissension in the ranks
Students considering post-secondary education next year will now have a new statistic to weigh when choosing a school a measure of job prospects for students in the programs offered.
Universities and colleges will be required by the province to provide rankings which are intended to show just how many students actually experience success in the job market after graduating from their program.
The Friday announcement by Education Minister Dave Johnson indicated this would be a "great leap towards solving the youth unemployment crisis." Well Dave, think again. This idea certainly has a few kinks which need to be ironed out.
First, if a student does find employment upon graduation, how will it be determined if that job is related to their area of study? It seems there is quite a lot of room for faculties to manipulate the data that is, once they figure out how to collect the information from students who have already graduated and left the school. If a biology student gets a job at McDonald's does that job really relate to their area of study?
Will the fact some people are hired for jobs due to their program-related volunteer work be considered?
Another factor which may mislead incoming post-secondary students is the fact that the job market is in a constant state of flux. Students entering their first year of study based on the notion that their intended program offers great job prospects might be in for a surprise three or four years down the road when they graduate and find that the jobs are no longer there.
In fact, the new rankings are going to be an excuse for universities to raise tuition even more. They are a step towards deregulation. If students from some faculties have a higher rate of employment upon graduation than students in other faculties, the administration will use this as justification for raising the tuition fees of students who have a better chance getting a job.
The government will tell students the rankings are for students' benefit. The new information will look like post-secondary institutions are making an effort to be more accountable to the shareholders of their institutions the students. But what also must be taken into account is the fact the government will be able to collect on loans at a higher rate under this new system. If universities are trying harder to get students' jobs and students actually get jobs, it means more students will be paying back their loans.
Hopefully, the positives of the new information tool will outweigh the negative. By providing statistics ranking employment success rates for students, it may cause faculties to pull up their socks in terms of providing much-needed and long-overdue resources to help students gain jobs in their field. But more than likely, students will be paying the price, literally, for the new opportunities.