September 9th, 2011

Promote equality of opportunity in university education

…while the value of a university education is beyond dispute, we still don’t understand all of the factors that improve the chances kids will graduate from university. One thing we do know, however, is that kids whose parents attended university are much more likely to seek advanced education themselves.

Although we don’t know exactly why this is, several hypotheses have been advanced: The higher incomes enjoyed by university graduates mean more money is typically available for their children to attend university; better educated parents tend to have higher educational aspirations for their children; and better educated parents tend to provide environments more conducive to the cognitive development of their children.

While the absence of the latter two is hard to redress, governments and universities have tried to neutralize the first - lack of sufficient funds - by providing for loans and scholarships. The question, then, is whether this has helped reduce the educational disparity between children of university and high-school grads.

In a recent study, Statistics Canada found that the disparity has decreased somewhat, though not nearly enough. The study did find the number of university grads between 1986 and 2009 more than doubled, and this increase was evident among people whose parents had attended university as well as those whose parents had not.

Specifically, the number of children of university grads who attended university themselves rose to 56 per cent from 45 per cent, while the number of children of non-grads attending university rose to 23 per cent from 12. Both groups therefore experienced an identical increase of 11 percentage points, which means there remains a 30-percentage-point difference between children of university grads and children of high-school grads…Read More


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