Ontario student debt has risen sharply for graduate-level studies
Given high youth unemployment in Ottawa, and very substantial declines over time in median income for young people, high debt levels on graduation are a particular cause for concern. Between 2000 and 2010, average debt at graduation for Ontario students rose for all levels of post-secondary education. But debt growth for College students has been modest, while for Masters and PhD students, it has been substantially greater than the rate of inflation.
Changes to tuition support announced by the Ontario government for 2017 may result in some level of debt reduction. It is interesting to note, though, that student debt varies greatly by province, but appears not to be correlated with tuition fees. Although Ontario has higher average undergraduate tuition fees than any other province ($7,539 in 2014/15 compared to the Canadian average of $5,959), Ontario’s Bachelor students have the third lowest average debt level at graduation. Newfoundland/Labrador has the lowest tuition fees in Canada, but its students have the highest average debt levels at graduation.
Note: The National Graduates Survey (NGS) 2013, class of 2009-2010 was conducted three years after graduation, whereas previous National Graduate Surveys were conducted two years after graduation.
- Statistics Canada. CANSIM Table 477-0068
- Chih Chen, Mariétou Coulibaly & Gloria Mukonkole Mbuyi. Youth Employment, Unemployment and Underemployment in Ottawa. Social Planning Council of Ottawa, November 2013.
- Inflation Calculator for Ontario
A high proportion of Ottawa residents are "STEM"-educated, but significant gender imbalances remain
As of 2011, 15% of Ottawa residents had a certificate, diploma, or degree in a field related to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) . Tied with Calgary, this is the highest percentage out of Canada's six largest cities. While there is insufficient research to definitively address their impact on innovation and productivity in Canada, the importance of STEM knowledge and skills to both the current and future economy is presumed. On the other hand, in a rapidly shifting, unpredictable marketplace, there are risks in focusing on very specific skill sets.
Gender imbalances in STEM education in Ottawa remain significant. In 2011, only 27% of Ottawa residents who had completed post-secondary STEM studies were women. These percentages are similar for Canada's other large cities. There is gender parity in the sciences, but engineering, mathematics and computer science are still heavily male-dominated.
- Statistics Canada. National Household Survey 2011. Retrieved using the Data Consortium
Lack of science credits in high school limits choices in university
A strong proportion of the promising job opportunities depend on knowledge and skills in science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics (STEM). STEM-related careers typically require some post-secondary STEM education, and access to that education is in turn predicated on credits earned in high school.
Only one province in Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador, requires students to take grade 12 math and science courses to graduate. Ontario students require only 2 science credits to graduate, and do not have to take science beyond grade 10. Three math credits are required, but a grade 12 credit is not necessary.
When students are unable to get into desired university or college programs due to lack of required high school math or science credits, the choice is difficult -- forego the opportunity, or take the time to make up the courses.
- Let's Talk Science. Spotlight on Science Learning: The High Cost of Dropping Science and Math. 2013
- Martin Dooley, A. Abigail Payne, Mitchell Steffler, Jessica Wagner. Understanding the STEM Path through High School and into University Programs. Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario, 2016
Business management, social sciences, health and education are the most popular areas for post-secondary study in Ottawa
As a broad area of study, “business management, marketing and related support services” has a very large number of post-secondary graduates in Ottawa. A very significant proportion of Ottawa’s workforce is employed in jobs that are deemed to fall into this same area. But the median hourly earnings for these jobs is very modest. Similarly, “health professions and related” had a large number of graduates, employs a significant proportion of the population, and has relatively low median hourly earnings.
The high concentration of public service jobs in Ottawa may at least partly account for the fact that the field of social sciences, which includes political science, government and international relations, has the second-highest number of graduates after business. The median income in Ottawa for those who work in this broad area is relatively high, but a much smaller proportion of the population is employed in the social sciences. Hourly earnings in engineering are high, and number of graduates is lowest among the top six areas of study. The Government of Canada’s Job Bank Outlook Report indicates that with expected employment growth and numbers of people retiring, the near-term employment outlook in Ottawa for all fields of engineering is good to fair.
Note: Hourly earnings calculated do not include individuals who are self-employed.
- Labour Market Ottawa. 2015 Labour Market Update