Tuition in Canada spiking for in-demand undergrad programs: CIBC report

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Canadian university students are paying more for programs as the area of study’s popularity spikes, according to a report by CIBC Economics.

The study, released Tuesday, highlights STEM programs — science, technology, engineering and math — as the most expensive and in-demand programs in Canada. It notes there’s a direct correlation between the expected salary of a field, and how much it costs to study it in university.

READ MORE: University tuition fees in Canada rise 40 per cent in a decade

Fees for STEM and business-related undergraduate programs have risen by nearly 40 per cent in the past decade, while other, less popular programs have gone up by about 25 per cent.

Benjamin Tal, an economist with the bank, told Global News the spike in prices can be attributed to supply and demand. But it can have serious consequences, Tal explained. Those who can’t afford to pay higher tuition, may end up opting for a cheaper option they aren’t necessarily happy with.

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“When it comes to education and field of study, maybe a free market is not the way to go,” Tal suggested, explaining that all fields of education should be affordable.

High-paying vs. low-paying jobs

The CIBC report also explained why STEM and business courses have been growing in popularity, saying “students are finally listening” and choosing to study programs that lead to “high-paying fields.”

Some lower paying jobs, and thus cheaper programs, include those related to visual arts, humanities, social sciences, and agriculture.

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“Many students have been brainwashed over the past years to go to those [STEM] jobs,” Tal said.
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Since the 2007-2008 school year, enrolments in business programs have increased about 30 per cent, while math and computer science programs have seen a boost of 35 per cent, and architecture and engineering have increased more than 35 per cent.

He added that choosing STEM courses is still a good idea — if that’s what students want to study.

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“I think it should be a combination of something that you like and something you can afford,” Tal said on choosing which field to pursue.

University vs. college education

When it comes to choosing between studying at a university or college, the report found that students are increasingly choosing university — and it does have some payoffs.

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Those with a university degree are more likely to have a higher starting salary, better chances of wage increases, and greater job stability. But, the report notes, the benefits of a university education are diminishing.

“Employment rates across those with college, bachelors’s and above bachelor’s degree education have converged over time, currently showing virtually no difference,” the report reads.

In fact, there are even cases where a college diploma could lead to better pay than a university degree. For example, a college education in engineering could be more financially fruitful than a university one in social sciences.

READ MORE: No tuition fee hike for some University of King’s College students

The report notes that many students will pursue a university education, then seek hands-on training at a college.  The solution, Tal says, is in creating programs that merge both university and college education.

The mixture of both systems will help eliminate some “negative stigma associated with college,” Tal says. It will also shorten the undergrad experience, and therefore lower overall costs.

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Ditch the undergrad education?

There are options outside undergraduate education, too.

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A recent report by job searching site Indeed listed the top-paying careers in Canada that don’t require anything more than a high-school diploma.

READ MORE: How many Canadians would choose a different career path if they had the chance?

“It’s important that job-seekers are aware of all the options available to them so that they can make informed decisions about career choices,” the managing director at Indeed Canada, Jodi Kasten, said in a press release emailed to Global News.

Some notable options include a real estate agent, which pays an average yearly wage of $107,843, a car sales executive, which offers up $78,994, and a pilot, which pays $75,396.

Results from the CIBC Ecomonics report are based off an online survey conducted July 27-Aug. 2, by 1,506 randomly selected Canadian adults who are currently enrolled as full or part-time students. The results are considered accurate +/- 2.4 per cent, 19 times out of 20.


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