Access to Postsecondary Schools


By Paul Del Gobbo

Do all Canadians have equal access to postsecondary education?

According to Statistics Canada (2010), access to postsecondary education in Canada has been a popular topic of discussion for quite some time. I feel that it is very important that all Canadians who have the passion/desire to succeed are provided equal access to postsecondary education. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, as certain individuals are granted different levels of accessibility to postsecondary education (Statistics Canada, 2010).

How do we evaluate access to postsecondary education systems?

In a Consultation Paper released by HEQCO (2012) that was titled “Performance Indicators for the Public Postsecondary System in Ontario” it was stated that access to postsecondary education could be measured by acknowledging participation (measures those who attend postsecondary education), attainment (measures those who have obtained a postsecondary degree), the engagement of specific targeted groups (some population groups receive less assistance to accessing postsecondary education) and student financial aid/debt load (postsecondary systems should address the financial situation of each student).

The Research is Telling us that …

1. The cost/affordability of postsecondary education reduces the participation rates of those from low socioeconomic backgrounds (Statistics Canada, 2010).

2. As stated by Statistics Canada (2010), “the evidence points to gaps not only across socioeconomic groups but also between males and females in terms of academic preparedness and motivation to participate in postsecondary education” (para.6). Take a moment to watch the following video clip that was released by HEQCO (2011), it is titled “Understanding the Gender Gap in University Participation.”

3. According to Statistics Canada (2010), many students do not have the interest, guidance and the requirements that are necessary to attend postsecondary educational institutions. Accessing postsecondary education is affected when students have minimal aspirations, lack motivation, are not engaged with school, have poor study habits and fail to complete high school (Statistics Canada, 2010).

4. Parental education is a factor that helps to determine if students are going to take part in postsecondary education. As addressed by Statistics Canada (2010), “parental education appears to affect participation in postsecondary education at least partly through its impact on student aspirations, high school outcomes and related factors” (para.7).

Improving Access to Postsecondary Education …

1. I personally believe that it very important to teach students financial literacy. Providing financial literacy (cost of education, rates of return, the importance of saving, how to access financial assistance) for individuals could help to improve their chances of accessing postsecondary education (HEQCO, 2011). Take a moment to watch the following video clip that was released by HEQCO (2011), it is titled “Financial Literacy and Low Income Students.”

2. The Canadian Policy Research Network (2010) has identified a few popular programs in Canada that are trying to improve access to postsecondary education. The programs are titled:
 Future to Discover
 Explore Your Horizons
 This is Your Life: A Career Planning and Educational Guide
 Youth Career Discovery

These programs are discussed in detail at the following website:

3. A program offered in Toronto titled, Ryerson University’s G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education, is a program that was developed to “increase postsecondary participation by young people and adults who might not otherwise interact with or experience postsecondary education” (Ryerson University, 2011).

4. In addition, the Canadian Policy Research Networks (2010) has also addressed that the best way to improve one’s access to postsecondary education is to provide them with:
 Counselling (focusing on education and career opportunities)
 A Mentor (Career Counsellor)
 Academic Enrichment
 Web-Based Assistance (CanLearn, Youth Career Discovery …)
 Parental Assistance
 A well Trained Educator
 The opportunity to earn Scholarships

Canadian Policy Research Networks. (2010). Enhancing access to post-secondary education in Canada: an exploration of early intervention initiatives in selected countries. Retrieved from:
HEQCO. (2011). Financial literacy and low income students. Retrieved from:

HEQCO (2012). Performance indicators for the public postsecondary system in Ontario. Toronto, ON: Author.

HEQCO. (2011). Understanding the gender gap in university participation. Retrieved from:

Ryerson University. (2011). Spanning the gaps to postsecondary education. Retrieved from:
Statistics Canada. (2010). New perspectives on access to postsecondary education. Retrieved from:


4 thoughts on “Access to Postsecondary Schools

  1. Hi Paul-
    While I agree with you that access to post-secondary education is not always equal, Canada has one of the highest post-secondary participation rates in the world (Canadian Policy Research Networks, 2010). This is not to say that there isn’t room for improvement. I agree that financial literacy is extremely important. The problem is that many students are not aware of the financial assistance available to them. There are specific grants and bursaries for part-time students, students with dependents, students with disabilities, low-income students, and the list goes on. The CanLearn website has a comprehensive list of grants available to Canadian students:

    Why aren’t high-school students given this valuable information when applying to post-secondary institutions? Do you think it is the job of high-schools to ‘teach’ students about the financial assistance options available to them? In the fall semester of my grade 12 year we had representatives from colleges and universities come to our school to present information on their schools (and recruit us). I find it odd that we never once had a presentation on financial aid, to me this would have been the most valuable presentation of all.

    In terms of the gender gap in post-secondary education, although women surpass men in post-secondary education, this is a very recent trend (see graph: Although women hold 54% of all university degrees, they are underrepresented in the highest-paying jobs, and are often paid less than men (Cohen, 2013). I would argue that this is a bigger issue than the participation rates of men and women in university. What can be done to improve pay equity?

    Thank you for sharing those resources Paul, I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

    Canadian Policy Research Networks. (2010). Enhancing access to post-secondary education in Canada: an exploration of early intervention initiatives in selected countries. Retrieved from:
    Cohen, T. (2013, June 26). Immigrants more educated than average Canadian as women outpace men at post-secondary: StatsCan. National Post. Retrieved from

    • Kaitlyn, thanks for all of the resources that you shared with me. I am in agreement with you (financial aid/literacy was never discussed when I was in high school). I feel as if this is starting to change. I graduated from Brock’s Teachers College last year. While I was there, I was given the opportunity to take part in a Professional Development session, which informed teachers on the importance of teaching students “Financial Literacy.” Have a look at the following website ( ). On this website, you will find several different literacy topics/lessons plans (for several different grade levels) that will teach/inform students to have a better understanding of financial related issues.

      You’re completely right; women are underrepresented in the highest paying jobs. I found a presentation titled “Closing the Wage Gap” (from a presentation done in New Brunswick) – . The presentation took some time to provide some solutions to solving pay equity. A couple of them were: adopt policies that balance work/family responsibilities, create gender inclusive workplaces, increase access to quality day care services and increase the number of employees paid using a gender sensitive system. Have a look at the following website:

  2. Hi Paul

    I really liked this topic and I feel like my response will just be to look at the flip side of things, as to how Canadians do have equal access to post-secondary education. I will agree with everything that you have said because there is achievement gaps, and socioeconomic status gaps, that are crucial factors that play a role in access to post-secondary education. However, our government does provide opportunities for people from low income families to obtain financial aid to complete their education. Here are some links to what the OSAP program can provide for low-income families:

    I also like how you tie in financial literacy. As a current teacher, we have been asked by the ministry to incorporate financial literacy in our lessons across all subjects. Here is the financial literacy “curriculum” that should be embedded in our teaching.

    Some closing thoughts I have right now are in relation to this idea of access to post-secondary education. I believe that everyone does have access if it is what they desire and when I say this I am particularly talking about teenagers in high school who are deciding on what to do once they graduate high school. However, is it necessary that everyone goes into post-secondary education? This idea somewhat bugs me because I feel like now post-secondary education is becoming a business, making people believe they need a qualification for them to be considered in a certain line of work. What if someone possess talents, (i.e. people who work in the trades, construction, etc) that post secondary education would not benefit or affect them in a negative if they did not part-take in it? When I say benefit, I’m not saying they wouldn’t learn anything from this education, but what I am saying is that if they posses a talent that they can teach and learn themselves, why would they have an interest to pay $1000s of dollars if they already posses talents in a certain area of expertise? I guess talents do not equal that golden certification that everyone needs now, as proof of their talents.

    A link I found to support your topic Paul:
    Education and skills needed for today’s jobs:


    Canada student grant for persons from low-income families. (2013, May 14). Retrieved from

    Financial literacy education in Ontario schools. (2011, January 11). Retrieved from

    What aid programs are available?. (2010, December 13). Retrieved from

    What education and skills are needed for today’s jobs?. (2009, August 12). Retrieved from

  3. Thank you Paul for identifying many important factors.

    I’ll invite further consideration of the impact of first-generation.
    As someone whose grandmothers were college educated (teaching and nursing) along with their sisters, and whose parents have university degrees, I was not the first in my family to consider higher education. I had people not only to ask, but who told me of deadlines, talked about how high school courses would affect different university program entrances. Yet I also attended a high school where less than 10% went on to university – where academic-focused courses were double-booked unless conflicts were caught by the few university-bound students before classes started. The course material timelines paid no attention to university application deadlines or competitions. My advantage was having a family and friend network that provided information that my classmates did not have when they would have been the first to apply.

    A colleague of mine examined her own journey as first-generation, including the Black sheep effect, where families and friends are not only unable to help but are actively discouraging and undermining of one’s efforts, self-esteem and knowledge.

    Non-profit programs such as Pathways to Education ( examine closely what is needed to support youth in low-income areas including academic support, social support, financial support and 1-to-1 mentoring support.

    A complex challenge indeed!

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