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Margin Notes

Just the facts, ma’am

AUCC issues some back-to-school quick facts on universities.


This past summer, in anticipation of the rush of back-to-school stories in the media, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada prepared a handy list of “quick facts” that universities could use in their media messaging.

These sorts of exercises are always interesting to me, because the facts of course are selectively chosen to tell a good story. I’m not being cynical here, because I think the story the facts tell is pretty compelling. If you have other facts you’d like to share to add nuance, I invite you to do so.

AUCC President Paul Davidson used some of these facts to good effect in an op-ed in the Globe and Mail on Labour Day under the headline, “University is still the surest path to prosperity.”

Of the facts AUCC distributed, the one which seemed to have had the most resonance is the fact that four out of 10 students graduate debt-free. This is not widely known by the general public. The Globe and Mail ran a story on this, entitled, “The good news? Almost half of all students graduate debt-free.”

AUCC adds: Among those students who do graduate with debt, almost one-third owe less than $12,000. For those who graduate with debt, the average amount they owe is $26,700, with a median of $23,500.

Here are the rest of AUCC’s quick facts:

More than one million Canadians are pursuing an undergraduate education – a record number.

In 2011, undergraduate enrolment (full-time and part-time) surpassed one million (1,015,000) for the first time ever. Since 2000, the number of full-time undergraduate students in Canada has grown by nearly 44 percent.

Enrolment in graduate studies grew by more than 80 percent since 2000.

Full-time graduate enrolment in Canada grew from 81,000 in 2000 to nearly 148,000 in 2011.

In 2011, the number of international students enrolled in Canadian universities grew for the 16th consecutive year.

Full-time international enrolment has increased by more than 11 percent since 2010. In 1995 there were 25,000 international students in Canada; in 2011 there were over 100,000. They come from more than 200 countries.

The cultural and economic impact of international students in Canada is tremendous.

Students from around the world enrich the educational experience of Canadian students by bringing global perspectives, new cultures and languages to our campuses. According to a July 2012 federal government report, international students pursuing their education in Canada generate 81,000 jobs, nearly $8-billion in spending and more than $445 million in government revenue.

The demand for a university degree is strong and will continue to grow.

According to federal government estimates, 75 percent of new jobs in the coming decade will require postsecondary education. Between 2010 and 2020, AUCC estimates there will be 2.1 million jobs created for university graduates.

University graduates routinely earn much higher incomes and experience more stable employment than those without a university education.

During their careers university graduates will typically earn $1.3 million more than those with a high-school education alone. The lifetime income advantage for a bachelor’s graduate over a registered tradesperson or college grad working full-time is $1 million.

There are more jobs for university graduates – even in a tough economy.

From July 2008 to July 2012, the net increase in new jobs for university graduates was 700,000, compared to 320,000 net new jobs for college grads. Meanwhile, the available jobs for those with no postsecondary education decreased by more than 640,000 during the same period.

AUCC plans to post the quick facts on its website, with references. When they do that, I’ll post the link in an update below. AUCC has more facts and stats here.

Léo Charbonneau
Léo Charbonneau is a former editor of University Affairs.
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  1. Cautious Optimist / September 18, 2012 at 20:50

    And some people still worry about a crisis in our universities. Guess what, if there was indeed a crisis, you won’t see students lining up for admission. I mean, who goes for courses in buggy driving or candle making (or even TV repair) any more?