From Doug Saunders’ column in The Globe and Mail, May 16
…For the past two decades, the population of Canada has been the subject of a vast and largely unnoticed experiment whose results have enormous relevance for the world.
The experiment used the entire adult population to test this question: Should higher education become nearly universal, with college and university degrees as widely held as high-school diplomas? Given that postsecondary credentials have traditionally provided a large benefit to some people, will they continue to produce those benefits if held by nearly all people?…
In 2000, Canada had 1.3 million people enrolled in colleges and universities. After a decade and a half that number has risen by more than 50 per cent, to 2 million annually. The proportion of adult Canadians holding university and college degrees rose from 40 to 51 per cent, making Canada the most educated country in the world, the only place where the majority of adults have a degree….
In 2007, 65 per cent of new jobs required a postsecondary education; by 2011, 70 per cent did, and forecasts predict that by 2031, almost 80 per cent of jobs will need a degree. In other words, we already have more degree-requiring jobs than we have degree holders; one analysis predicts that by next year, Canada will have 550,000 more university-requiring jobs than we have degree-holding workers….
You would think, given the dramatic results of this experiment, that Canada would be plunging into a project to make university universal. But, in fact, we’re retreating. Postsecondary education is a provincial responsibility, and most provinces are in fiscal trouble these days, focusing their dwindling resources on seniors rather than students; education spending is frozen. Ottawa’s contribution is a pittance. Universities are floundering. At the very moment when they’ve proved their worth, and just as we’re about to need them more than ever, we’re cutting them adrift. It’s time to get the whole country onto a campus.