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Candidates urged to support expansion of degree programs at Ontario colleges


Candidates in the provincial election will be urged to support the expansion of career-specific degree programs at Ontario’s 24 public colleges.

“Ontario must focus on youth unemployment and underemployment and helping more young people find meaningful work,” said Glenn Vollebregt, President and CEO, St. Lawrence College. “Expanding the range of degree programs at colleges will help more young people get the qualifications and advanced skills that are essential in this economy.”

The colleges are calling for candidates and parties to support the creation of three-year degree programs at colleges and the expansion of the colleges’ four-year degree programs.

While colleges currently offer some four-year degrees, most programs at colleges are diploma and certificate programs. In fact, the colleges must award diplomas to graduates of the three-year programs.

The situation puts Ontario at odds with most of the OECD, where graduates of three-year programs – including career-specific three-year programs – earn degrees.

Many three-year programs at Ontario’s colleges already meet provincial and international standards for baccalaureate education. Allowing colleges to offer three-year degrees will ensure that graduates earn credentials that properly recognize their achievements and allow them to compete more effectively for demanding careers, both in Ontario and beyond.

Research done for the government has confirmed the colleges can deliver effective degree programs. A report by consultants on the four-year degrees at colleges found the colleges deliver high-quality programs in areas such as aviation technology, industrial design and digital animation. The range of four-year degree programs should be expanded.

The colleges officially launched an interactive website today, Better Jobs and a Stronger Economy, which promotes the sector’s priorities in the Ontario election. In addition to the recommendation to expand degree programs at colleges, the sector is also calling for:

  • Reforms to the apprenticeship system.
  • Commitments to support the funding of college programs.

Growing numbers of students and parents recognize the value of college education. Enrolment at Ontario’s colleges is at an all-time high and the number of university graduates enrolled in college programs has increased more than 40 per cent over five years. Ontario’s next government must build on this success and ensure that more people get access to career-specific post-secondary programs that prepare them for well-paying jobs when they graduate.

“Ontario needs to help more people access college education,” Vollebregt said. “We’re calling on candidates to support important reforms to strengthen higher education and the college programs available to students.”