There's been an increase in the number of students with university degrees enrolling at the Nova Scotia Community College, according to an internal survey of the college's first year students.

NSCC initially reported a large increase, but later realized it had changed the questions in the survey and so could not tell who has a degree, and who does not. 

According to the survey, the bulk of new NSCC students arrive with no post-secondary education.

Krista Elliott is an NSCC student who first went to university. Elliott said when she graduated high school, there was no question she would go to university.

"If your grades weren't so great, you went to the community college," she said. "That was just the general intellectual hierarchy that was basically, strongly imposed upon us by adults in our life."

A few years later, Elliott earned an English degree "by the skin of my teeth."

As a self-proclaimed political junkie she dreamed about writing speeches, but worked in a call centre.

"Despite the messaging we had received, strangely enough, a university degree wasn't an instant ticket to a really good job," Elliott said. "An English degree was almost known as the 'Do you want fries with that?' degree."

She was stuck and looking for inspiration.

A chance meeting

It came in the form of a chance meeting standing in line at the bank. While accompanying a friend to pay off her student loan, she noticed former premier Russell MacLellan standing in front of her.

"Being the shy person that I am, I tapped him on the shoulder," Elliott said.

She asked for MacLellan's insight into her career prospects.

"He thought for a minute and said, 'Well, you should probably look at maybe taking public relations.'"

Elliott followed MacLellan's advice to the doorstep of NSCC and now works as the communications co-ordinator for Ducks Unlimited in Atlantic Canada.

"It was a fantastic course. Very intensive, but very practical," she said.

Kelly Regan, Nova Scotia's minister of advanced education, said college offers hands on experience, but people shouldn't write off university.

"I think it's in fact very valuable and it teaches people to think," she said Thursday.

Elliot isn't so sure.

"To spend three years of my life and thousands of dollars, simply to check off a box on some interviewer's list that I would at least get my foot in the door — it's a bit of a tough call of whether or not it's really worth that much," she said.

Corrections

  • Based on information from the Nova Scotia Community College, CBC initially reported that 21 per cent of NSCC students had a university degree in 2012. In fact, Nova Scotia Community College provided incorrect numbers.
    Mar 21, 2014 4:53 PM AT