Alberta may top the other provinces in a lot of economic and social indicators, but in terms of enrolment in post-secondary education programs, Wild Rose Country is lagging behind most of the others.
According to numbers released today by Statistics Canada, only 4.95% of Albertans were enrolled in some type of post-secondary education in 2009/2010. That compares with a national average of 5.56%. Quebec topped all other provinces with 6.15%; New Brunswick was at the bottom of rankings, with 4.17% of its population furthering their studies. The report includes all types of post-secondary institutions, including universities and colleges. It also counts both part-time and full-time students, and international students.
On the surface, the statistics don’t look good for Alberta. Increased levels of education are a strong indicator of income levels and economic success in the future, and the fact that Alberta ranks 7th out of 10 suggests that there is a problem. Part of this can be explained by Alberta’s strong job market. If good paying jobs are plentiful, it may be difficult for a young adult to justify paying tuition fees and spending hours in class—even though that strategy may end poorly in the long run. (This is also one of the reasons suggested when explaining why Alberta has one of the lowest rates of high school graduation.)
But there is perhaps another reason why Alberta’s rate of participation in post-secondary is so low, and this is actually positive for the province. Traditionally a destination for interprovincial migrants looking for work, Alberta ends up receiving thousands of young adults who have attained their degrees and diplomas in other provinces. They come already educated and ready for work, which pushes down the percent of the overall population currently taking classes.*
*Courtesey of Todd Hirsch, Senior Economist, ATB Financial