October 7 , 2003  
Volume 97, Issue 22  

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Cash not always to blame

By Eric Johanssen
Gazette Writer

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 CentreSpot.

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 said.

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 school.

"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 said.

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.



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