April 23, 2009

Degrees of Success

Statistics Canada is today reporting on the college and university graduates of 2005. By 2007, two years after graduation, 9 out of 10 college, bachelor's, master's and doctorate graduates who had not taken further education were working. The median annual earnings among those working full time in 2007 was $35,000 for college graduates, $45,000 for bachelor's graduates, $60,000 for master's graduates and $65,000 for doctorate graduates. 

Therefore, the earnings gap was 33% between the bachelor's and master's degree, and 29% between a bachelor's and a college degree. But it was only 8% between the master's and doctorate levels.

However, while earnings generally increased by level of study, there were large distributions of annual earnings within each education level. Thus, some college graduates earned more than many bachelor's graduates. For example, 25% of college graduates earned $44,300 or more annually, while 50% of bachelor's graduates earned $45,000 or less.

Some 46% of all 2005 bachelor's graduates completed their studies free of debt, as did 56% of doctorates, 55% of college grads and 54% of those with a master's. Of the balance of graduates with student debt, the average debt amounts were $22,500 for doctorate graduates, $20,400 for bachelor's graduates, $19,500 for master's graduates, and $11,800 for college graduates. StatsCan found that average debt levels for 2005 grads were lower than those of the 2000 college and university graduates.  

Conclusions: Whatever the individual's particular interests may be it is clear some some form of post-secondary education has long-term financial benefits that outweigh all initial costs, including the accrual of debt. In addition the federal government provides healthy tuition tax credits that can be applied against one's income tax which, ultimately, lowers the actual cost of education. However. many students find themselves pressured to enrol in programs for which they are a poor fit, and their maturity level and commitment are not yet at the level required to position them for success. We need to equally value the array of postsecondary options at both the college and university levels. While I firmly believe in the instrinsic value of higher education I also think it does not detract from the purpose of education to also claim that higher education is also a very worthwhile investment. 

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