While Ontario is rightly proud of its position as a worldleader in post-secondary education (PSE), it nevertheless is true that for too many Ontarians, post-secondary education remains an unattainable dream. In spite of the commitment of successive Ontario governments to improve access to PSE, there remains much to be done in addressing the underrepresentation of certain groups. Indeed, even as enrolment more generally has risen, corresponding gaps in PSE participation rates have widened for some underrepresented groups.
For young people from underrepresented groups a complex range of interconnected barriers impact their ability and willingness to pursue post-secondary education, including: financial, motivational/informational, and academic barriers.
This should be of concern to all of us: not least because of the self-evident equity issue, that all qualified students should have the ability to attend a post-secondary institution irrespective of their backgrounds. But there are also well-documented benefits of PSE for both individuals and society: Ontarians with a post-secondary degree are more likely to live longer, be healthier, commit fewer crimes, vote in larger numbers, donate to charity, and volunteer in their communities. Individuals too, will have significantly better labour market outcomes if they have a postsecondary education: for example, the employment rate for those with a post-secondary education is 72.6 per cent, far outstripping those with only a high-school diploma (61.4 per cent). In order to ensure the future prosperity of the province and its citizens then, it is crucial that we work to address barriers to post-secondary attainment.