Volume 96, Issue 85
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

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University degrees worth the hassle

By Paolo Zinatelli
Gazette Staff

A new Statistics Canada study reinforces what many have held as a common belief: having a post-secondary education increases your earning potential.

The study, released yesterday, revealed that male university graduates earn approximately $72,000 a year, while male high school graduates earn approximately $41,000.

"University graduates are the only graduates who saw earning increases over time," said Miles Corak, director of family and labour studies at StatsCan, adding community college graduates are making the same amount as they did two decades ago.

"Women with university degrees saw the biggest increase," Corak said, noting incomes rose by approximately 10 per cent.

Along with the increased earning potential of university graduates, the study found that more people are attending a post-secondary institution.

"[Those aged 25 to 34 years] are better educated, but there are fewer of them," said Lynn Barr-Telford, chief of analysis and dissemination at the Centre for Education Statistics. Sixty-one per cent in that age group had some form of post-secondary education, as opposed to 49 per cent a decade ago, she explained.

"Generally in Canada, the hallmark of the [1990s] was an increase in post-secondary education," Barr-Telford said. Possible reasons for more Canadians having a post-secondary education include the labour markets preference for more skilled workers, she added.

As well, with the recession of the early 1990s, it may be that some students opted to stay in school rather than face the uncertainty of the job market, Barr-Telford explained.

"This is exactly the kind of trend [we] have been expecting," said Greg Moran, Western's VP-academic. The kind of knowledge one acquires at a university is an essential element for the source of jobs people are looking for, he said.

"[Applicant rates] for Western in the last five to 10 years have increased dramatically," Moran said, adding the increase is several times larger than the provincial average.

"[The results] don't surprise us – [they] reflect what we understand to be happening as well," said Christine Tausig Ford, director of communications for the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.

Those with a university education are more likely to have a higher income and are less likely to be unemployed, Tausig Ford said. "It is [also] quite well known [that] people will go to university if their parents went to university," she added.

The AUCC has forecasted enrollment growths of approximately 30 per cent over the next 10 years, Tausig Ford added.

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2002 THE GAZETTE