Volume 96, Issue 90
Thursday, March 20, 2003

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Low income for students

Re: "University degrees worth the hassle," Mar. 12

To the Editor:

The idea that "having a post-secondary education increases your earning potential" is generally true – especially when compared to not having a degree or diploma.

However, a more careful reading of the recently released Statistics Canada census data reveals that Canadians under 30 actually earned less in 2000 than they did in 1980. Men under 40 have also experienced losses, while those over 50 have made substantial gains.

In other words, attaining a degree or diploma does not translate into instant prosperity. Rather, post-secondary education ensures prosperity if you happen to be male and over the age of 50. Recent graduates – who carry the highest student debt loads – are not necessarily doing so well.

It should also be noted that while university and college enrollment rates are on the rise, this does not mean that post-secondary education is accessible.

Participation rates are neither a sufficient – nor even a necessary – measure of accessibility. That more people are enrolling in college and university does not indicate that people from all income backgrounds can afford post-secondary education equally.

In 2001, Statistics Canada reported that young people from the wealthiest quarter of the population were 2.5 times as likely to attend university as those from the poorest quarter.

Given that tuition fees have risen by more than 126 per cent during the 1990s and that average student debt loads now exceed $25,000, this fact is not at all surprising.

Richard Telfer
Hons. BA Sociology, Western 1998
Ontario National Executive Representative
Canadian Federation of Students

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2002 THE GAZETTE