Cash not always to blame
By Eric Johanssen
If students had a nickel for every time someone told them
the primary reason some do not attend university is because
of financial constraints, they would probably have enough money
to pay back their student loans and perhaps afford a meal at
Ready or Not?: Literacy Skills and Post-Secondary Education,
a study released last Tuesday by the Canada Millennium Scholarship
Foundation, reported money is not the primary factor keeping
students from pursuing higher education.
The study indicated students scoring in the top 40 per cent
of math and literacy tests are not attending post secondary
institutions. The study claimed one reason for this is students
feel disaffected from school, which means they have a low sense
of belonging and acceptance in school, leading to low participation
rates in academic activities.
James Kusie, national director of the Canadian Alliance of
Student Associations, feels the report speaks to the social
culture at the high school level. "Universities will need
to be more active in the community and more visible at high
schools informing students about post-secondary options," Kusie
However, Kusie also said he questioned what percentage of
students from the study who qualified academically and did
not pursue post secondary education directly after high school
returned to school after taking time off.
Douglas Willms, director of the Canadian Research Institute
for Social Policy and author of the study, said he felt high
schools need to start as early as Grade 9 in promoting post-secondary
options for students. "Students need to understand what
different career paths might look like; what does it take by
way of grades, courses et cetera, to enter journalism schools,
for example," he said.
Thomas McLean, a second-year biology student, said the culture
within high schools might have to do with the size of the high
"Coming from a high school of 962 [students], where the
vice-principal knew most people's names and had been out for
dinner with a large percentage of the student body, everybody
I knew went to college or university; even those who didn't
want to go originally decided to try it out for a year," McLean
McLean also said students may have become too concerned with
grades to engage in social activities and something needs to
be done at that level to relieve some of the pressure.
Willms said the study also has a societal importance. "The
success of a nation depends on it having a highly literate
work force," he said.