Demand for a university education in Ontario remains strong; spike in adults returning to upgrade for the work force

TORONTO, Jan. 20, 2014 /CNW/ - High school students continue to apply to Ontario universities in high numbers, and there has been an early dramatic spike in the number of applicants seeking to return to school to upgrade their skills in response to the needs of the labour market.

The number of secondary students who applied for university this year is 89,272, a slight dip as was expected as a result of changes in demographics. This figure is only slightly down from the 92,554 who applied at this time last year, and up almost 28 per cent since 2004, when 72,972 high school students applied one year after the double cohort.

Early indicators show extraordinary growth in the number of non-high school applicants – at 29,683, the number is up 10.5 per cent over the same date last year. This group of applicants has been growing steadily with a 35 per cent increase in 2013 over 2004.

This cohort includes people returning to university from the workforce, college students transferring to university, mature students, and applicants from high schools in other provinces and overseas.

"University is the first choice for many thousands of students," says Max Blouw, Chair of the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) and President of Wilfrid Laurier University. "In record numbers people are recognizing that a university education is what employers are seeking in this recovering job market."

Even as the economic recovery continues to be slow after the worst global recession since the Second World War, university graduates experience high levels of employment: 86.5 per cent of university students who graduated in 2010 had jobs six months after graduation, and 92.2 per cent were employed within two years.

Ontario university graduates also have higher earnings than those with any other level of education, earning $49,277 two years after graduation and $1.3 million more over a lifetime.

"Ontario universities are adapting to ensure graduates have the right skills for the modern workplace and they continue to get jobs as the labour market evolves in ways we can't even predict," says Bonnie M. Patterson, COU President and CEO. "Our graduates have the flexibility to adapt to different careers and the entrepreneurial skills required to create their own jobs."

Visit the Ontario Universities' Application Centre website.

View COU's infographic on graduation and employment rates.

COU is a membership organization of 21 publicly assisted universities in Ontario. It works closely with the provincial and federal governments to shape public policies that help universities deliver high-quality programs for students and advance the research and innovation that improves the social, cultural and economic well-being of Ontarians.

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SOURCE Council of Ontario Universities

For further information: Wendy McCann, Director, Strategic Communications and Media Relations, Telephone: 416-979-2165 x233, Cell phone: 647-271-0825, Email Wendy McCann (wmccann@cou.on.ca)