New university students need to get a ‘workable’ education

November 10, 2011

Editorials, Opinion

Many Grade 12 students are getting their first taste of real stress.

Research papers are due, unfinished scholarship applications sit on desks and students struggle to keep their head above the minimal mark in their worst subject.

Gone are the days when they could get a good job with an eighth grade education – students are pressured to choose a degree that will get them a job, while not bankrupting them in the process.

But this is becoming difficult, as Canadian students are faced with ludicrous amounts of student debt, increases in competition for scholarship funding and for the jobs they desire afterwards, all to answer the question: what do you want to be when you grow up?

The issue with answering with doctor or lawyer or any of the other white-collar jobs they were exposed to as children, is that students now apparently already have to be one to pay for their education.

The average cost of tuition last year in Canada rose 4% from 2009-10. 2009-10 had increased 3.6% from 2008-09, and the numbers are still climbing.

Yet we are still faced with the same availability of funding as we have been for years past, which is hardly enough to cover the $27,000 in debt the average student will have at the end of their degree.

The average scholarship sits at about $2,000, which could go towards any number of the things draining student wallets. Tuition, residence, books, food – with varying prices based on where they live and what they’re taking.

However, many degrees can sit at about $30,000 a year, especially if the student is specializing or going for their PhD, which, surprisingly, many aren’t.

In The Guardian, an article called “Who can afford a doctorate in the arts and humanities now?” discusses a popular worry of students pursuing a graduate in the Faculty of Arts. The degree is monetarily exhausting, and produces little career options, which has become a problem for graduating doctorates entering the work force.

Not to say that a graduate degree is entirely worthless. There are currently high demands for engineers, scientists, doctors and lawyers, which all require advanced levels of education. But students are now forced to work harder than ever to be accepted to specializing schools. In 2009, the acceptance rate for Medical schools in Canada was 26%, for Law, it was 11%.

And with the rising immigration rate of under-20 year olds, our competition is not just limited to our school-mates.

But perhaps the demand for jobs previously disregarded by prospective students may increase faith for our future. Jobs like elementary teachers for instance.

“I’m not worried,” said high-school student and aspiring teacher, Arden Holmes, “In five years the older teachers are retiring. And there are lots of other different things you can do as well.”

Indeed, there will be a demand for teachers in the next decade, but potential educators need to concede that they will then be competing with graduates from the last four or five years before them, that are still unemployed.

Diversity and adaptation is the new recipe for success in university. Students are expected to change their minds twelve times through the course of their degree, so generally students with broader degrees tend to bag the jobs graduate and specialist students are ‘over-qualified’ for.

But the advice is not to abandon your passion. It is to differentiate and broaden – to cultivate as many options as possible in order to prepare for an unpredictable future. And to expect that if you insist on specializing, you will need to work much harder than students in the past, with a much lighter wallet.

By Elizibeth Ashton

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