Editorial | The Ontario Post Secondary System is Broken, Part 4

Welcome to part 4 of the four-part series, the last section! The first two parts went into detail about the issues plaguing students. Part 1 focused more on the external issues such as the high price for education, increasing acceptance averages, and the recurring issue of striking staff members. In part 2, mental health was the discussion as statistics proved that anxiety, depression, and stress impact students more than it did in the past. Then in part 3, I discussed solutions to three problems which included a radical plan to decrease the average needed to get into post-secondary school. Finally, in this part, I focus on providing solutions to the increasing pressure coming from home, the need to increase student support, and preventing strikes at Ontario’s universities and colleges.

In part 2, 72% of the 72 people who voted in my Instagram poll were pressured to graduate within 2–4 years.¹This information illustrates how society and friends place a great deal of stress on students. They expect students to maintain a high CGPA and graduate within the duration of their program while taking five courses per semester. There is no room to move with this pressure. With these societal pressures, any mistakes are failures and a debt to the student’s reputation. Reducing the pressures fixes the problem above. Students must be stronger to withstand the downfalls within their education.

Pressures from home is another factor that impacts a lot of students’ choices on what and where to study. Parents, relatives and extended family pile the stress of wanting their sons or daughters to do well at school. But in 2018, there are many ways to achieve success. There are ways on the internet to achieve that by uploading YouTube videos and using social media. Monetizing has become a trend. Ad revenue can come from any site you create and it is important to understand and know how to use these tools to achieve the goals. It is easier now than ever before to create money. A university or college degree is not the only way to enter a job market. With many online courses, tutorials, and more, the internet is the best way to learn something you are passionate in. Many students are entering university or college to get a piece of paper which they will never need in their lives. It ends up being a way to show family members that they completed undergraduate studies.

Read More: Editorial | The Ontario Post Secondary System is Broken, Part 3

To build on this topic, a bachelor degree in any field does not guarantee a job after the student graduates. In 2016, 61.3% of graduates aged 25 to 34 were working in occupations related to their field of study.² Only 47.6% of students in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) program were working in a job related to their studies.³ This shows that despite spending 4 years at a university or 2–3 years at a college, that degree will be useless if the student can’t find a job in the field.

Overqualification percentages are high in some sectors after receiving a bachelor’s degree. Humanities have the biggest overqualification rate at 31%.⁴ This might not sound as high but out the 9,820 who graduated with a humanities degree in Ontario alone, 3,044 of them will be over-qualified at work.⁵ The bachelor degree in this day of age does not guarantee a job in any field despite it being extremely valuable to friends and family.

More needs to be done to support students in a university or college. More than a majority of the 78 voters said there was a shortage of student support at their school.⁶ One way to fix this is by exposing students to new clubs and activities to further enhance their student life. But with assignments, midterms, and work, many students do not find time to stay at school to take part in these teams. Despite the large number of clubs, turnout during high-stress times is poor. And they will remain poor with the stress of having five courses per semester.

Students need better mentors and guidance counsellors who can assist them on their journey towards receiving their degree. Due to lack of resources and help offered at leading Canadian universities and colleges, students turn to their friends to find answers to their problems. But this means that at least one student has to suffer from the system to figure out a plan to combat the issue at hand. And with the pressures coming from the 5 courses and work, valuable time disappears as students wait in lines to receive help from professors, TAs, and other staff that might assist students with their studies.

Student support is needed in a time when stress and anxiety are impacting students every day. With wait times being long, students accomplish their work without help and that leads to poor grades which creates more stress. The solution is to provide more opportunities for students to come in to receive help. Longer office hours for professors and TAs is a start. Going to college or university alone does not end well and the more help that is provided, the more likely that the student will benefit.

To reduce the number of strikes by unions, we have to understand why universities and colleges go on strike. In the 2017 college strike, the main reasons for the strike were to demand better job security and academic freedom.⁷ Colleges wanted more full-time positions. While in 168 day York University strike that just ended, job security was at the forefront of the discussion. In fact, many universities avoided strikes at the beginning of the year. The University of Toronto avoided a strike in November and settled on a deal in February.⁸ In Ottawa, both the University of Ottaw⁹ and Carleton University¹⁰ reached agreements to prevent strikes. But instead of having a large protest seen by the Ontario colleges, the universities in Ontario all have different unions representing their workers. If one university goes on strike, the rest of them will not. The college system has only one union leading to larger and more devastating strikes.

Most part-time professors do not have job security and they do not know how many courses they will teach in the semester and therefore how much they will get paid. Also, part-time professors do not have the coverage such as medical insurance and a pension when compared to full-time professors.¹¹ Contracts either only last a year or three years. But after a decade of working as a part-time professor, full-time positions are not being handed out. To fix this issue, universities and colleges will need to create more permanent and well-paid jobs for professors that work there part-time. Otherwise, strikes will continue happening and no progress will be made to reduce the time wasted.

Read More: Editorial | The Ontario Post Secondary System is Broken, Part 1

To read more about this issue, The Student Life Network spoke to staff at York University to determine the reasons for the strikes.¹²

Every student who goes to college to university wants to be successful. Every student wants to graduate with a high CGPA, within the duration of their program, impress their family and friends and get a job in their field. But there are obstacles, difficulties, challenges and more that dent that path. Perseverance, grit, and the desire to obtain that degree or diploma is needed to achieve that goal. Through these four parts, statistics showed that there are major issues with the post-secondary system in Ontario. Most of the solutions are funded by money which makes it harder to achieve. Governments might help reduce the cost of tuition and decrease the number of striking staff members, but the brunt of the issues are put on universities and colleges to fix such as the mental health challenge. With jobs increasingly requiring post-secondary education, this generation of students face the biggest financial, mental, and emotional struggle ever witnessed by graduating classes. More needs to be done to provide an education that is appropriate based on the cheques being paid by debt-ridden students in Ontario.

Originally published at bhaviksblogs.wordpress.com on August 30, 2018.

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Bhavik Naik

Computer science undergraduate student at the University of Toronto. I am a tennis coach and player, photographer, blogger and developer.