Is the value of a university education being oversold?
On Cross Country Checkup: campus letdown?
As students settle into university classes across the country, some are now wondering what they're doing there.
But perhaps even worse, some professors are wondering the same thing.
Is the value of a university education being oversold?
With host Rex Murphy.
Toll-free number 1-888-416-8333 (works only during the broadcast)
Today we want to talk about post-secondary education. A new school year is well underway in universities, and by now some students ...and even some professors ....are wondering what they're doing there.
It seems that universities throughout the world are going through a bit of an identity crisis. Their pre-eminent rank and prestige is not as solid as once it was. The goal of parents to see all their children - were it possible - to go to university, rather than some other post-secondary type of institution is not nearly as universal.
Universities have grown wildly; enrollments have exponentially inreased. Courses of all sorts have multiplied - some of them the very edge of fashionable pursuits and causes ... not properly grounded in scholarship or purpose say some of their critics.
Costs at universities are now, for many families almost as much as buying a home. Spending, 20, 30, 40, or 50-thousand dollars to get a degree... leaves many students so burdened by debt they will be decades getting out of it --- IF ...they get a job to pay off the debt to begin with.
All this has raised questions: Do universities give value for money?
Are their standards what they used to be? Are some courses of any utility for a future course of life ...or employment?
Some students and some professors, such as our first guest today, are wondering whether we've all lost sight of the purpose of universities. Many students fill the halls seeking credentials for a ticket to the good life, no work required. Meanwhile many professors are looking to bolster personal political agendas, no discussion required.
What happened to the disciplined meeting of enquiring minds?
In the United States there's talk of an education bubble ...just like the housing bubble. Costs are soaring and students are asking why they're paying crushing fees for something that is no guarantee of a job. And of course the worry is that like all bubbles, this one might eventually burst, leaving universities with no students, no money and perhaps no purpose.
Canadians are not worried about a bubble, but they ARE concerned that universities are recruiting students who are not looking for education but would prefer training for a good job that pays the bills. Students, parents, schools, and employers often seem to be working together promoting universities as a basic jump off point before entering the working world. What do you think? Are universities suited for this? What about the less glamorous and less funded part of the post-secondary world ...the community colleges? Are they being overlooked and under-promoted to the very students who might benefit the most?
If you are a student, what do you want in a post-secondary education? If you're a parent, where are you encouraging your children to go ...and why? If you are a professor are your students receptive to what you think they should be learning? Or maybe you're an employer ...what do you want to see in a prospective employee?
What should be the purpose of a university education? Is it too expensive? Should it become more restrictive? Should community colleges be promoted more?
Our question today: "Is the value of a university education being oversold?"
I'm Rex Murphy ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius satellite radio channel 159 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.
- Ken Coates
Historian and former Dean of the Faculty of Arts at University of Waterloo. Co-author of Campus Confidential: 100 startling things you don't know about Canadian universities.
- Sharon Carry
President and CEO of Bow Valley College.
- Glenn Reynolds
Blogger: Instapundit, and Law professor at University of Tennessee
- John Patrick
President of Augustine College, Ottawa.
Globe and Mail
- Inside the entitlement generation, by Margaret Wente
- For undergrads at Canada's universities, a new way of learning
- School tuition hikes eclipse inflation rate again: Statscan
- Is higher education a scam?
- B.C. grad students tell us what they think about their programs
- Searching for a higher education strategy
The Chronicle of Higher Education
- Campus Confidential: 100 startling things you don't know about Canadian universities By Ken S. Coates and Bill Morrison
- Is higher education a bubble?
- Blowing up grad school
- Higher education: The latest bubble? by Schumpeter
- Is it really the next bubble?
Center For College Affordability
I think a university education on the intellectual level is definitely worth it. However I think tuition costs are too high by about a third of their total. I graduated from university with a $4,000 debt in 1975. I don't think today's students should be burdened with more than $20,000 debt in total.
Elliot Lake, Ontario
I think Universities are striking a better balance today between holding the piece of paper (the degree) up as the end all and be all - and understanding that the student experience and life lessons learned with at University hold value as well.
That being said, I think parents and institutions need to be more open to a gap year and like colleges, universities should start taking responsibility for the employment of their graduates.
For the cost of a typical Bachelor's degree, the payback to the student is almost non-existant. Very few fields value a university education beyond its value in showing that a student is able to 'stick with' something for four years. When I graduated with my Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in 2004, everyone wanted to know what jobs I qualified for. The best answer I could come up with was, "well, maybe I can be a barista at Starbucks."
Penticton, British Columbia.
I teach a class in the Business Program, 2nd year, and of the forty students in my class, twenty are male Saudi Arabians. It is clear that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia sees nation building value in having their youth attain a degree. What makes this even more interesting is that I teach at Mount Saint Vincent University were 80% of the student population are female. I sense that my Canadian students are less sure of their reasons for being in my classroom.
Halifax, Nova Scotia.
As a recent university graduate myself, I think the issue is that our society has contributed to the credentialization of university education where people no longer attend academic institutions to become learned people, but merely to be able to add another credential to their resume. Sadly, many young people have no real motivation to learn in university as a result.
Mary Ellen Jeffries,
With respect to your question today: what is meant by value? if one preceives it to be measured by return on investment then clearly one may want to prepare a business case for the field that one is interested in. If value is measured more broadly, one should likely consider what they would like to take away from the experience. The cost of going to post secondary institutions is clearly worrying the younger generation. I really feel for them since it is difficult to be certain what work to do once completed and the cost of an education is high.
Since I wasn't sure what my options were, I took a broad interest base set of courses when I undertook my undergrad, I worked over the summer and I had student loans but I was able to pay them back relatively quickly. That was many years ago. Going back at a later date (9 years ago) for my Masters was much more expensive since I had a morgage to pay - the experience cost me my 100,000 savings. I have not recovered those funds yet but I do enjoy my work and my quality of life is reasonable. How's that for rationalization? My retirement will go beyond the normal to make up for the lack of savings.
Chemainus, British Columbia.
I think people's ideas about a university education are a bit skewed. All my life I've heard this negative view of university students who think they'll have the world at their feet when they get out of school, but as a student, I've never encountered this among my peers.
It's not that students believe their university degree will fast-tract them to some high paying, easy job-- they think that having a degree will give them access to those jobs. How many well-paying jobs don't require a B.A. or some kind of special certification?
Elysha Del Giusto Enos,
I am a solo parent of a child who is planning on entering post secondary next year right after grade 12 graduation. As a family we are banking on this for my daughter's future. We are under the impression and have personally experienced that a degree is needed here in BC for any real livable employment. However cost is a factor and no guarantees if she will be excepted (nursing program). We are looking at various facilities based on costs. My personal feel is that our universities are all about making dollars now versus educating our community and investing in our country's future. My daughter will be competing for a seat against many others including international students. I haven't yet shared with her my own concerns and worries for her in terms of being excepted but they are huge.
I appreciate this opportunity for sharing from a parents perspective,
Vernon, British Columbia.
Already, I'm hearing things I differ with. But what I want to emphasize is the benefit of university, but especially the social sciences. I'm a sociologist at a striclty undergraduate university (I also have an appt at a large research university, and publish my own research fairly well.
All university is not the same. All programmes are not the same. There is serious underfunding in some of the very areas that are really on the frontline of the issues we face in our country. I'm speaking of the social sciences - really, all our issues are social in nature. For example, environmental issues are issues of society and human interaction with natural resources, energy, how we build our cities and organize ourselves and even how we think. Yet they get a very disproportionate portion of the money - very low. I think the latest figures are about 20% of the research funding and that research funding, as well as provincial funding, disproportionately goes to the large universities.
I'd argue for a more institutionally diverse post-secondary landscape. Institutions like mine, for example, can provide a more relevant, and deeper experience, with interaction, engagement, community-involvement and even faculty research. A few studies have shown also that the bang for the buck is larger at places like this.
You may find the following is oversimplified, but I need to do that so I myself can understand it. In my opinion the value of university education is oversold under the following conditions:
If a student main focus is to get a better job.
If a student succeeds in getting knowledge but does not know how to apply it.
First, one needs to distinguish between the value of merely attending and completing a university program and the value of deriving from it what is possible to derive. Merely having an undergraduate degree is not the socially distinguishing feature it might have been 60 years ago.
One must also distinguish between *intending* to derive value out of what universities can offer and the various impediments that are imposed. Consider how many students would have worked at paid employment 20 hours a week or more in the 1960s or earlier, compared to now. Consider how many high school students would have worked 15 hours a week in tandem with attending school during the 1960s, compared to now.
I taught university for some 14 years, from one end of the country to the
other and I've had plenty of students who couldn't attend the very classes they were paying top dollar for because of their work schedule, with students who would fall asleep in class, following an evening shift, not 10 feet away from me.
There are certainly some criticisms one might levy about curriculum, standards, motivation and such, but the fact of the matter is that a program attended and attended to, some 60% of the time, yields 40% less of an outcome.
Finally, having been attached to some 12 Canadian post-secondary institutions, as student and faculty, not once did I encounter undergraduate courses directed at teaching students how to create their own jobs in their chosen field. The attitude was always that they were being trained for pre-existing pre-defined jobs, whether as faculty, or other. The programs themselves are full of quality content, but in the absence of such courses, it's like having all the numbers to a combination lock, save one. Predictably, the door remains closed.
Education is always worth it and university will be worth it when we have quit forcing class system, business-pornography (boob size, leg length, height, age), gender, and race as qualifications for entry-level at work. When we quit imagining that someone does it better than we can and do, we will begin to make our universities go to work.
What is failing us is not education but organization by our governments to not allow a brain-drain from Canada to the USA or Asia, and to stop using Canadian universities as filling stations for international standards which tend to bankrupt our infrastructure.
What is failing us is integration of technology, trades and academic structure. What is failing us is the loss of arts and huge brain power of arts.
What is failing us are the student unions who have the power of a tidlly-wink social club and are proud of it. What is failing us is the hetero-patriarchal system of academic hierarchies. You see - same old same old.
What is failing us are our shrinking governments and the success of the zombie corporations which are killing anything from organic evolution. The list continues.
Ladysmith, British Columbia.
There was a time when science break though was common at many schools. Edmonton had the lead on the internet and the largest Zoo collection of gene material. Now I think universities are sold and mainly to off shore people. Value like beauty is in the eye of.
Abbotsford, British Columbia.
I graduated from college as a mature student with two young children about 15 years ago and secured a good job right away in health care. Entry requirements at the time were a grade 12 high school education within 5 years which I didn't meet, but I was able to take some summer refresher courses.
Now my children are 21 and 24 and in order for them to get in to certain college programs, they must have a university degree. Why is a university degree required to go to college? It seems to me that university used to be for an education and college was for training. Now universities fulfill entry conditions to college and colleges are giving out degrees.
Swartz Bay ferry terminal heading to Vancouver.
Boston Scientific Canada.
As a mature student at 42 years of age, I have returned to our community college to obtain a formal accreditation in its two year Fire Systems Protection Engineering program. As a former facilities manager of 10 years I worked with these life safety systems day in and day out, although without the formal qualifications this lead to my inability to continue in such capacity.
At the cost of my life savings, I am half way through this program and with each day my confidence in securing a position after graduation continues to diminish. Simply put, the programs content, the abilities of its faculty members (who for the most part have less experience in the industry than I do as a student), and its patch work efforts to ensure its content is applicable within industry, are simply providing the bare minimum.
I believe the emphasis is on filling the seats, and in the process the quality of education takes a back seat to the bottom line. Education is simply a business these days. The younger students may not be aware of what they are getting out of there education, but anyone with some years under their belt will certainly see the failure of the current system to provide the skills and training to succeed beyond graduation. In a era where employers are cutting back on training, the colleges need to ensure more than ever there programs meet this short fall.
My B.A.Ed. has stood me in good stead. I was as a copy-editor for most of my work-life and post-retirement I'm doing what I love: correcting other people's errors. But kids in schools and universities are no longer taught the niceties of grammar.
When I was a student, I did 5, 6 or 7 courses per semester. I did not go to Florida for mid-term break, because I held down a part-time job, sometimes two. And I didn't head downtown at 5 every Friday.
When I graduated I had student debt, large compared to my first salary. Revenue Canada's inflation converter, when I applied it to my debt:earnings ratio on graduation, shows that I was slightly below where today's grads are.
If I were just graduating from high school, I believe I'd be doing plumbing or electrical or training for some other essential service because today's education system, which seems to be based on entitlement and political correctness, wouldn't prepare me for the work that I love to do.
The ill-preparedness doesn't start at university. It starts in primary school.
St John's, Newfoundland.
I am loving your call-in topic today, but think one point is missing in the discussion. We seem to encourage students to buy into the myth of credentialization, where if they complete a program there will be a job waiting for them. While we need to give them a balance of market-ready skills and a broad academic background, we also need to encourage students to look for their own opportunities and develop their own jobs.
It isn't enough to have graduates say "I did my part but the job wasn't there." We need to give them the skills and perspective to find or create their own jobs rather than bemoan the fact that their credentials were not the easy ticket to employment they thought they were.
Just having a degree is not enough. The individual has to have the underlying drive to succeed. Just graduating, is not enough, and the world is becoming a more educated each year and competition is fierce.
The traditional bricks and mortar style of learning, we are not in the early part of the 20th century any longer and academicians should take notice of the various programs available to students that offer distance, electronic and accelerated learning to wider range of students, which more than ever at anytime in recent history include those of us mid career.
It is time for a new global system of learning, as learning styles have outgrown the western civilization, and looking for faster and more efficient ways to learn. That in itself should show that people are ready and require a new method earning their accredited degree.
Excellent program. My university education 40 years ago was wonderful. Not only did I come to appreciate Chaucer but I continued on to get a graduate degree that directly led to a career that was very satisfying.
But you presenting the options for advanced education does not include thetechnology schools. The Alberta Northern and Southern Institutes of Technology are great options and they are duplicated in every province.
I value and respect a university education. However, I really have to question just how much university education is enough. As one caller just said, having two degrees is "just a drop in the bucket". It seems that soon you will need a Ph.D. to get anywhere.
A case in point: My daughter graduated two years ago "With Distinction" with a B.Sc. degree in Kinesiology. She wishes to be a physiotherapist. For this you need a Masters Degree in Physiotherapy. Even if she had wanted to she could not have obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Physiotherapy because there is no such thing, although I imagine there was at one time.
She has applied two years in a row at numerous universities. She is now takingseven more courses in a bid to raise her GPA up to acceptable standards to get into the physiotherapy masters program anywhere. (They all get about 1,000 applicants each year, no exaggeration, and take about 50.) Unless she can get her GPA up to a bare minimum of 3.7 she has no chance of ever getting in. She is both studious and personable. She'd make a great caregiver or therapist but what are her chances?
I just wonder if so many lines of work really require so many years of training. It seems every governing body of every discipline thinks their line of work is "rocket science" or something.
I worked in college administration in BC. We frequently had students with undergraduate degrees who came to us seeking relevant work training - in technologies, health, business and trades. Even today a two-year diploma in applied science is a passport to excellent earnings and opportunities. An unfocussed baccalaureate degree gets the graduate very little. So the student's choice is two years of hard work and minimal if any debt, opposed to four to six years and a mountain of debt.
A main reason for university students graduating with huge debts is the cherry-picking of courses with no clear goal in mind.
Lantzville, British Columbia.
I think my point needs to be stated because it could have been the worst mistake of my life. When I was in grade 11 and was deciding which classes to take the next year I asked my counsellor which college program I should go into. She looked at me with horror and asked me why I would want to ruin my education by not going to University.
I had never been a strong student and had only mustered a high 70% average in High School but I had taken all my maths and sciences while still throwing in a couple of arts and history courses. Before my appointment I had thought of what my options were: University for History or English (the only classes I had more than 85% in) or College for a Lab Science program and the guarentee of a profession to join at the end of 3 years. I chose college because I was interested in science and that was the only way my grades would get me into post secondary.
I have now been employed at this hospital lab in BC since a month after my final exams in college and I do not have that counsellor to thank for it. If she had her way I would have gone to University and probably failed out with little or no self esteem intact and a huge debt load that I did not create going to college.
100 Mile House, British Columbia.
I am sure you have heard the adage "if you do not know your history you are doomed to repeat it". When it comes to mass education we would do well to look at its origins. At the outset of the Industrial revolution the new burgeoning class of factory and business owners needed large numbers of people with the skills to read the blue prints, run the machines and keep the records. In other words, reading writing and arithematic, hence the old narrow-minded saw of sticking to the 3 R's. Yet this premise offers far less value to this country than the critical thinking, effective communication and problem solving skills that your earlier caller alluded to.
So here we are today, stuck with an education system that was narrowly defined and narrowly focused some 300 odd years ago yet, today, there are a multitude of skill sets that would be of far more value to the student and the nation iself. Yet they are given little to no presence in the educational discourses. Imagine a generation or two that had been given truly effective communication skills; was able to critically separate the wheat from the chaff in advertising and news sound bites, learned that there are a multiple forms of democratic governance and had the skills to become effective managers of their political systems just to name a few of the educational resources we possess, but fail to provide. Why is it that it seems the only value as person and/or their education has is tied 'having a job or career' instead of becoming empowered and informed members of Canadian society?
Gabriola Island, British Columbia.
If you want a job, a technical or professional school is the place to be. They teach known methods for doing things and, hopefully, pay attention to what local businesses are looking for.
I am 46 years old and have returned to school because there are subjects I am particularly interested in and am currently in my third year. I am not thinking about what I will do in the long run since I already have a number of skills to fall back on. The primary goals of an undergraduate program, from my experience, are to teach critical thinking and to make students familiar with the literature (theoretical and practical) on the subject. If you want to deal with new issues that crop up in any field these are the required skills.
Students who do not know why they are in university should probably not be there. The work is hard and a great deal of personal motivation is required in order to succeed.
I recall a woman I knew in Calgary years ago. She studied English literature at Oxford long ago not because she expected to make a lot of money off of it but because it interested her. Yet it helped to develop her skills at rhetoric and over time she has built up a solid reputation in the field of communications which does pay her bills.
My major is mathematical physics. I have never seen a job ad for a mathematician or a physicist. But of all the people I have spoken to who just lost their job, none of them were mathematicians or a physicists. If you are trying to understand things that no one understands you need people who know how to think, not people who focus only on what is already known.
New Westminster, British Columbia.
About 20 years ago my husband, at the time CEO at Amalgamated Construction Association in Vancouver, worked with the Burnaby School District and the BC Institute of Technology to pilot integration of pre-apprenticeship, apprenticeship and post-secondary education and training in the construction trades. The premise of the project was not only that construction trades have obvious value in our society but that they can also lead to management-level jobs in construction, running large projects. As far as I know this concept is still alive and well so that someone in BC who apprentices for a trade has a way, if he or she wishes, to go through both bachelor and master level degrees in construction management at BCIT or UBC.
This successful endeavour bears out what your recent caller, who runs a crane operation, had to say about the value of the construction trades and missed opportunities to build careers from the trades into management.
Victoria, British Columbia.
In my opinion, universities are more about free market facsist endoctrination than opened minded free thinking. Public education is no more than a system of mass regimentation to keep all the people in there place. If you don't get a MBA in Investment Banking to sell phoney paper to everyone, you're wasting your time and money. Mark Twain is quoted as saying "Don't let your schooling get in the way of your education."
Vancouver, British Columbia.
If I may point out an interesting comparison: a 2 year community college diploma equals 20 months of study (2x10) while a four year university degree equals 24 months (4x6) Interesting isn't it? Yes I know the theory content is greater but still...
And an annectode for you. In 1987, in my first 3 months as a Nursing student at Red River Com. College in Winnipeg, a fourth year U of Manitoba student came up to me and asked me to show her how to read a thermometer. I couldn't believe it but she was serious.
Victoria, British Columbia.
"Shop class as soulcraft" - a very insightful book by Matthew crawford - should be read by advocates of colleges and trades and be taken as a warning for advocates of higher education. Please please, read this book.
Ron J. Lange,
Universities are over sold as having the ability to provide marketable skills. Many don't use their degrees to work in their specialties. On the other hand, they are under sold as being wonderful opportunities for the growth of individuals and societies. I simply cannot accept that universities should be run on a business model. They are an expenditure for society, one that I'm happy to support versus fighter jets and Olympic games.
It's OK to go to school to be a doctor, or whatever, but aside from that, the purpose of university should be for enrichment of people's lives to study whatever they're interested in.
It makes me sad to know that many can't afford to go to post-secondary school in this era. When I went to college 20 years ago, it cost me a fraction of what it does today and, although, I was dirt poor, I tree-planted and, with help of my grandparents, I came out with very little debt. I studied visual art. I didn't really go for job opportunities. I went to art school. I learned to think outside the box. In this day and age, we need all the creative people we can get.
Although I've made little money from my art in my lifetime, I felt like I've really made a valuable contribution to humanity with my various visual art endeavours. Imagine a world without art, music or poetry.
Nelson, British Columbia.
I went to college and took a 3 year marine engineering diploma program after I graduated from high school. There were lots of jobs waiting for me and I worked in that industry for 10 years and made an excellent wage. That job also taught me lots of practical knowledge. I returned to university at the age of 29 and received 2 degrees, an undergrad degree in geography and a bachelor of education, both from the same institution. I've been an elementary teacher for 20 years and would strongly urge young people to look closely at a college program before they decide to go to university, especially if they're looking for job training.
I have 2 degrees - one of which, at least, had very definable and practical application insofar as the 'work world' went. I think overall it helped me appreciate the importance of an education for education's sake - higher learning is important. However, at this point, I look to my 17 yr old who graduates from high school this year - a very good, hard working student with many talents, and I'm convinced that the best thing she can do is to take a gap year, get some life experience, travel, think and have a chance to consider the things that interest her. University is too limiting, and now far too expensive to be a venue for self-exploration - simply put, I think most programs do not, nor should they necessarily, provide people with a career.
Charlottetown, Prince Edward island.
I am a professor at Ryerson University. We do applied university education well. The key is the word "applied"- meaning the education a student gets is related to the real world resulting in better results. The vast majority of our students find employment related to their field of study within 6 months of graduation.
In my own department (computer science) we find our students generally are working (even if we do not want them to) by 3rd year. In fact, I am writing for 3 students here who are getting angry.
I agree with the sentiment that universities are for learning, not necessarily preparing for most jobs. I got an MS degree in experimental psychology in 1967 and worked in research for a few years. Then I got sidetracked - did many, many odd jobs, only to return to Vancouver in 1989 realizing I needed to settle down in a job not too odd. At 50 I enrolled in a community college and received a diploma in Computer Information Systems. It was a co-op program and I was hired by the company from my first work term. I stayed there until I retired. I think university teaches you to think and to learn, both of which are very helpful in any job, but community colleges prepare you for a particular type of job. I found the combination wonderful.
On the other hand, my friend also did the MS in experimental psychology and then research, but later just did the odd jobs while thinking about the human condition, then wrote a book. University definitely served her well in terms of researching. thinking and writing.
Burnaby, British Columbia.
I am now gainfully employed in a profession relevant to my education. I have completed two Bachelour's degrees, a Master's degree, and a Ph.D. I feel that we mustn't conflate an education with marketability. The most useful education that I obtained, by far, was the International Baccalaureate high school program where we learned critical reasoning and epistemology - it trained me to think critically and to be a good (educated) citizen.
Medicine hat, Alberta.
I wonder that you are only hearing from one dynamic on the radio today, those of the arts degree. I have an undergraduate degree in Science, a graduate degree in business (C.A.) and currently I am back in university (30 years later) working on a MA in Learning and Technology. I have never had a problem with gaining employment.
I currently teach at a large community college in Ottawa, having moved from the corporate world 8 years ago into the education world. I am doing the MA to enhance my teaching and because I am a life long learner.
My students are at community college as they seek employment Immediately after graduation. Some of them go on to university and graduate school. They are very focussed and know what their goal is before they start college.
I think there is great value in university, if you know what you want to do with your degree and where you want to work before you go. If you have no idea, then take a gap year, go volunteer for a year or work for a while. All of these will give you direction.
I have both a BA and an MA in philosophy and I am 4 years into a PhD in the same subject. I recently moved back home to BC from Tennessee, where I am enrolled at a private university, because I had a baby and wanted to raise her here. I am finished my coursework and comprehensive exams, and when I left Tennessee I planned to finish my dissertation remotely, and get my doctoral degree. However, shifting priorities caused me to start exploring what might be out there for work and I started to apply for jobs in university administration, government, and non-profit organizations.
After sending out applications for over a month, I had heard nothing. I realized that despite my professors assuring me that philosophy would help me get a job, especially because my specialization is social and political philosophy, I am unemployable. I am way over-educated for entry-level positions, and because I've spent over 10 years in school, I have zero practical experience in order to be competitive for upper-level jobs.
I am wishing that I had stopped after the MA and pursued a diploma through a community college. It is frustrating to see people going to graduate school thinking that having a Master's degree automatically makes them more employable - it doesn't. If you want to acquire skills in university, you won't find them in the classroom. Get involved in student government, or student clubs, or participate in a co-op program, or volunteer for a local organization Professors spend all their time in the academy, and assume there is a real-world connection between what they teach and what employers are looking for do not trust your professor to give you accurate advice about what it takes to get a job - the longer you spend in school, the less you know about what it takes to succeed outside of it.
Grand Forks, British Columbia.
I went to university in the early 70s at a time it was affordable. I understood that a BA would not qualify me for a job. I understood that it was some sort of process to develop myself and if I identified a academic career path to follow then the university was the place for me to be. At that time jobs were scarce so the minority of my peers stayed at school until the job situation improved. I have no regrets, but as a requirement for employability it is a waste of time and money. It also lowers the value of the university education.
100 Mile House, British Columbia.
I haven't listened to alot of the show, but enough to get a little sick of the whining by grads as to how society suddenly "owes" them a job simply because they have chosen to become higher educated.
I graduated in 1982 with a bachelor of music from the university of Ottawa. coming here was the single greatest decision of my life and all of the good things I have now, my friends, my profession as a musician, my family have come from the education and experience in this great city and the, friendships and contacts I made while I studied flute with the two great flutists from the National Arts Centre Orchestra.
The thing is, I took six, rather than four years to graduate because by second year I was alread self employed part time in my field. How many grads actually consider making their own way as self employed persons using the skills, acumen and knowledge they are amassing as the move throught the hurdles of their degrees? I recall Mr. Trudeau had a message for people whining about jobs.
Due to less than effective counselling in our rural community's high school, many families seek out my help in figuring out post secondary plans for their young people, and many young people up to 30 yrs old contact me to re-jig their life plans. Two quips I hear quoted to me over and over: "Follow your passion/dream/heart" and "Do what you love to do and you'll never work a day in your life".
No wonder this generation feels like they are entitled to a great living just for breathing and why the "artsy" folks feel like they should be subsidized with tax dollars for following their passion. Paint, dance, and sing to your heart's content, but you better figure out what you will do to put a roof over your head until your hobby starts churning a profit.
While I'm at it, I'll also suggest that grade school literacy and numeracy standards need to return to what they were in the 70's, plus we need to bring in standardized civics and Canadian history as well as debate skills if we want to equip our kids to be citizens who can fully participate in and contribute to society.
Powell River, British Columbia.
I spent seven years obtaining two University degrees and entered the work force about thirty years ago. I have no doubt that my investment in my post-secondary education was well worth it from a financial point of view and from a general education point of view.
My comment is that even back in the 1970s when I started university, it was common knowledge that Arts degrees were not a ticket to a good job. Arts degrees were seen to be, and I believe still are seen to be, a good way to increase one's general knowledge and critical thinking skills. If a person then wanted a good job after obtaining an Arts degree, some kind of directed or professional training (Law School in my case) would be needed.
At the time of writing this, your callers seem to be predominantly those with Arts degrees and seem to universally be lamenting the fact that jobs are hard to come by. Perhaps you should be interviewing those who graduated from University with more practical based degrees such as engineering, nursing, business and computer science for a more positive perspective on the value of a university education.
Surrey, British Columbia.
Much pre-university prep should be done through better high-school guidance. People need to see the personal benefits of advanced learning. University training will always be a benefit in any line of work. However, it seems clear to some that Canada is slowly de-skilling. I don't believe a bus/truck driver in Canada earns 80k. If that is true, then our resources are in the wrong pot. That money should be going towards the kinds of innovation coming from higher learning that will support our current standard of living. Canada finds it easier to hire resource technicians and export manufacturing jobs than develop competitive, innovative products to support further innovation and learning. Canada is regressing.
I received my BA from McGill in 1966. Like you, Rex, we were the first post-war generation to go to university in any numbers. For my parents generation, law had been the pre-requisite to any sort of 'real job', educated people were valuable to society in general to make our world a better place, not so much for personal wealth and aggrandizement. And so, from the war experience of our parents, our generation went on to university with a broad spectrum of interests; in the words of my parents 'the world was our oyster' and we would make the world safe and better.
Contrary to "popular wisdom" jobs were not abundant then and I was told so often that I was over-qualified, it was soul-destroying. But my annual tuition was twice my monthly starting salary when I did find a job so I had no student loans. During my university lifeI lived a poverty-stricken life, at home, sigh, in the swinging 60s.
It seems as if the spiral has returned; my children are often considered over-qualified for the jobs, often short-term or contract, they eventually get. Our priority was to get all 3 children out of university with no student loans; they worked hard and we did too and now they're all set. They are intellectually and morally rich and highly principled and unafraid of hard work.
Education makes you a better person, not necessarily a richer one. I fully applaud the young people who take on 'trades' for which we have a crying need; excellent tradespeople are worth every cent you pay them. And the young man from Waterloo with his BA in Arch. is an excellent example of a university degree fused with practical experience.
Our community police officer has a degree in Philosophy, to the initial horror of his philosophy prof, and to the great benefit of our community. The philosophy prof has since revised his opinion and agrees that this young man may well turn around the currently poor impression that citizens have of their local police.
I would also like to be able to figure out how many jobs are actually available, I think there's a lot of fuzzy information going on about the availability of work. After all, how much education do you need to work in a Call Centre. And how little can you get away with to have a concerned, well-functionning and ethical society. Those are the questions which education is supposed to help us answer, after all. Isn't it.
One very large problem that universities have yet to acknowledge is that the laws of supply and demand operate on university graduates just as they do on any other product. You churn out more graduates in an economy with fairly inelastic demand for BA degrees and the price of hiring soemone with that degree will fall.
It works aklso on the value of inputs too. The more students you let in the more you will guarantee that a high proportion of them are poorly prepared in advance of their unbiversity career. So the median quality of intellectual inputs must also decline in a world with a fixed supply of young people.
Having said that, I dread the day when the university takes the final step into vocational training. Afterall, people trained in the "practical" vocation of economics, business and law brought the world to the brink of fiscal disaster. Would that there had been a few classically trained philosophers to debate the moral as well as the logical basis of what these practical folks were doing.
University of Winnipeg
I think part of the problem is credential creep. Jobs that use to require a High School education now require a University one. Is this necessary? Mostly not. We just expect people to have a University Education. Students that just went straight into the job market after High School now go to University. It is extended High School without parental and teacher supervision. Many are just focused on getting the degree. Learning does not matter Marks matter. True apprenticeship programs would be better places for many of these students.
And their are those that are going for their Mrs. degree. I heard a grocery clerk talking to her friend about going to college and the main reason was to meet someone to marry.
I moved to Newfoundland in 1971 and undertook all my post-secondary training in the UK. In high school we were always councelled that univesity was about furthering education not job training. If we wanted job training we should go to trade school or polytecnique. This of course prcluded "schools". Med School, Law School, Music School, etc. that might be associated with a university. Otherwise univesity was about learning.
I believe two things have contributed to the problem with undergraduate learning that we see today - and i agree with many of the things said by your current guests.
1. Industry, commerce and many other businesses now expect that univesities will train their workforce. What happened to good old fashioned appreticeships? They cost money for a firm. They want univesities to train their workforce and students to pay for it. This undermines the concept of university
2. I believe that the changes primarily occured during the Mulrooney era. I was in Ottawa when I was told that considerable amounts of money would be diverted from post-secondary transfers to provinces (education being a provincial jurisdiction) and "reinvested" in job training. Hence the sudden rise of private, for profit schools and colleges, (job training being a federal responsibility). Reason...the federal government was not getting the credit for its financial input into post secondary education. The result - a draw down in funding to universities who now had to make their way on their own - hence higher fees, larger classes.
I don't understand why anyone would wish to receive education in a massed class of 200-500 students. This isn't education. It's a sausage factory.
Finally, I am disturbed by the fact that so many leaders, bureaucrats and others who owe their livelihoods and careers to cheap education in the 60s and 70s should now think it is okay and just to demand that the current generation pay heavily for the privilege of a similar education.
St. Philips, Newfoundland.