University: not the only game in town

I know this is going to come as a shock, but if you’re starting to explore post-secondary options right now, it bears repeating: University is not the only option you have after high school. That’s right, I said it. It’s out there, in black and white.

There’s a prevailing assumption that a university degree is required for practically any job out there. That’s not true. Otherwise, why would other pathways even exist? Why would every community college have industry consultants helping to steer program content?

And then there’s the idea that “everybody” goes to university. Which is also not true. Based on the 2016 census, 28.5% of Canadian adults have a Bachelor’s degree or higher. That would mean that less than 1/3 of Canadians have gone to university and completed their studies.

PSE Facts

  • In Ontario, the cost of university tuition is more than double that of college tuition.
  • In the apprenticeship pathway, they pay YOU to learn, and when you’re in class, you pay only about $400 per session. The Ontario government has just announced a $75 million investment into apprenticeship training, which may help to lower those fees.
  • About 14% of first year students drop-out of university, and overall, about 16% of undergraduate students never complete their studies.
  • University almost always requires you to move away from home, increasing your expenses; there are more locations for colleges and apprenticeship training centres, meaning that you have a better chance of attending something close to home.

Before I keep going, I should say I have absolutely nothing against university. I’m a fan of education in all its various forms, and I have an Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s degree. But I think it’s important to look at all options for education.


Because my work revolves around people who chose a pathway that didn’t work for them – and it’s almost always university. I’ve worked with youth who failed out of studies or withdrew because they hated it. I’ve worked with new grads who finished their program but had no idea how to translate their studies into a career. In each case, the assumption was that they had wasted their time and money on what they saw as an uncorrectable error. I don’t know this for sure, but my guess is that the expense of university education has a lot to do with the associated regret.

Think about it.

Ask yourself a few questions. Do you actually need university education to get started in your dream career? Can you start in a college program and transfer into university later? Are you interested in eventually working for employers who would gladly pay a chunk of your tuition as an employee? Are there interesting careers with non-university requirements?

Chances are, you’re going to make a career change or an industry jump at some point, so it doesn’t make sense to assume your next move will be the last education you ever get. Think of it this way: what would you start with if you knew it was only step one?

Leave a Reply