Canada seeks root of apathy

February 15, 2002

The inability to afford high tuition fees is only one of several reasons given by young people who choose not to attend university, according to a Canadian study.

Even though the report, Why Don't They Go On? , ranked a lack of money as the number one reason for not pursuing post-secondary education, the study's funder, the government-founded Millennium Scholarship Foundation, was keen to highlight the non-monetary reasons cited by students.

The Canada-wide sample was drawn from a 1991 school-leavers survey and a 1995 follow-up.

Some 23 per cent of respondents said they did not attend college because they "did not have enough money".

More than three-quarters gave non-monetary reasons for not enrolling.

Taking time off before continuing study was cited by 19 per cent of those questioned, while 12.7 per cent said they had no interest in pursuing further education, 7 per cent said their marks were too low and 7 per cent said they had landed a good job.

The report says that it is rare for there to be just one key deciding factor, such as affordability, that discourages young people from considering college.

The report looks into ways of overcoming such hurdles. "It's not clear that the solution is financial," said Alex Usher, the foundation's director of research.

The MSF suggests that young people be given better information on prerequisites, programme options and student financial aid at the beginning of high school.

In addition, it says, parents should be targeted and given information on the advantages of post-secondary education.

A further finding was that young people were less likely to attend post-secondary education if their parents had a low level of educational attainment.

"Generally speaking, parents want their kids to do one level higher than they did. So there is a general upward trend in education. We would like to hurry that along," Mr Usher said.

A 2001 poll of students who did not complete college found that 46 per cent of those in the lowest-income group said they opted out because of a lack of money, compared with the 34 per cent average of the group.

In another study, the University of Western Ontario saw the average family income of medical students rise significantly after the province almost tripled medical school fees.

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