Data Check: Ontario leads the USA in university productivity

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Much has been made recently about the “productivity” of Ontario’s universities. But when it comes to graduation rates – a key indicator of productivity – Ontario leads the United States by a huge margin.
In 2010, the Ontario government set a goal of a 70 per cent post-secondary attainment rate (including apprenticeships) amongst Ontarians by 2020. This would mean an increase in the college and university attainment rate among Ontario’s 25-64 year-old population from 57 per cent to 62 per cent. In the US, the Lumina Foundation has set a similarly ambitious goal for Americans: increasing the college and university attainment rate from 42 to 60 per cent by 2025.
Attainment rates are a function of participation rates— the proportion of the population pursuing post-secondary education – and graduation rates. If one or both of these rates remains static increases, the attainment rate rises. At 43 per cent, the 2010 participation rate* in the US is almost as high as Ontario’s 46 per cent.
The Lumina Foundation has set its sights on improving America’s post-secondary “productivity” – increasing the number of successful graduates compared to the number of first-time registrants. The United States performs poorly in this area: the overall graduation rate amongst US university undergraduates is 58 per cent, and 56 per cent at public institutions. At community colleges it is 30 per cent and public colleges 20 per cent.
Despite being at a comparative financial disadvantage, Ontario’s public institutions still manage to achieve graduation rates of 80 per cent at universities, even after excluding first-professional degrees, and 75 per cent at colleges. By the Lumina Foundation’s standards, Ontario’s universities are extremely productive.
* Participation rate = number of full-time fall enrolments as a proportion of the 18-24 year population in July.
National Center for Education Statistics, Digest of Education Statistics, 2011; Enrollment in Postsecondary Institutions, Fall 2010; Financial Statistics, Fiscal Year 2010; and Graduation Rates, Selected Cohorts, 2002–07
Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, Graduation, Job and OSAP Default Rates; Colleges’ Key Performance Indicators
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Education at a Glance 2012: OECD Indicators
Statistics Canada, Education Indicators in Canada: An International Perspective 2012
U.S. Department of Commerce, Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Current Estimates Data

This article originally appeared in the OCUFA Report. To receive stories like this every week in your inbox, please subscribe.

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