University is not the only route to success

While we might call Queen’s the ‘only university’, it’s not the only post-secondary institution in town. Although the tri-colour flags throughout Kingston’s downtown streets may suggest otherwise, St. Lawrence College and Royal Military College also call this city home.

This unbalanced view on universities over colleges goes far beyond Kingston. While our parent’s generation saw a university degree as the ticket to a secure future, the job market in 2017 is very different. As university grads, we are no longer guaranteed a career with our diplomas alone.

With changes being made at the elementary and secondary levels to accommodate different learning styles, there needs to be a change in how we think about post-secondary education as well.

University and college are two very different things in Canada. While we see one as inferior to the other, the reality is that the two systems favor different learning styles. A university education teaches theory rather than practice. While it can absolutely be the right choice for certain careers and students, it’s not for everyone.

Colleges, on the other hand, focus on experience-based learning. Often, they offer apprenticeship training and programs ranging from bachelor’s degrees to certificates and diplomas in programs that fit individual student needs.

Unfortunately, the stigma attached to opting for a college program rather than a university one — even when it could be the more practical choice — is a remnant of an outdated social system that looks down on those who work in skilled trades. In Ontario, the college system is built specifically to adapt to a changing job market that is looking for skilled tradespeople. While university graduates are having trouble finding employment,  an estimated 1.5 million job vacancies await college graduates.

Increased enrolment doesn’t help university graduates either. Students who study in general degree programs with no career orientation can often find themselves floundering after graduation. In a time where most jobs require certain skills, university graduates are now finding themselves in college programs after graduation to be qualified for jobs. 

Pressure from family members when making these kinds of choices can have a big effect on young people. From a parent’s point of view, we need to educate them on how the system has changed, and how what worked for them won’t necessarily work for their children. There needs to be a more concentrated effort by secondary schools to give students and parents an unbiased look at colleges and universities, and what each system can really do for them as an individual.

Now, the script has been flipped, and getting a bachelor’s degree from any university is no longer a golden ticket. Despite all of these changes, the idea that a college education is something less than what university can offer persists. It’s time for Canadians to acknowledge that colleges are a valid route to a promising career, and in turn give a new generation of post-secondary students the confidence to choose to go where they’ll really succeed.

 

Ashley is The Journal’s Editorials Editor. She’s a fifth-year English major.

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