Participation in Postsecondary Education: Graduates, Continuers and Drop-outs, Results from YITS Cycle 4

Warning View the most recent version.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please "contact us" to request a format other than those available.

By Danielle Shaienks and Tomasz Gluszynski

Content note: At this moment, full content is available in PDF only.

To access the PDF publication, please use the "Full content in PDF" link on the sidebar (on the left-hand side of this page).

Executive summary

The analysis for this report is based on data from the Youth in Transition Survey (YITS).  The survey was designed by Human Resources and Social Development Canada and Statistics Canada.  YITS is a longitudinal survey, which collects information on educational and labour market pathways of a sample of young Canadians in the 18 to 20 age group in 1999.  They were interviewed four times since the implementation of the survey, in 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006. In this report, the data used are from the first four cycles and describe where they stood in their school to work pathway in December 2005 when they were 24 to 26 years of age.

Previous research on postsecondary participation of Canadian youth found that no one factor can fully account for who goes on to postsecondary education (Barr-Telford and al. 2003). There was, instead, a wide variety of characteristics which distinguish youth who undertake postsecondary education from those who do not. This report will examine demographic and family characteristics, high school engagement, academic performance, and first year postsecondary experience of those who attended postsecondary education and those who did not or dropped out.

As they get older, a higher proportion of youth followed by YITS through their transitions attend postsecondary education.  At their first interview in December 1999 when they were 18 to 20 years-old, 54% of them had attempted a program in a postsecondary institution. Six years later in December 2005, this participation rate was reaching almost 80%.  There were however, indications that participation was levelling of as they got to be 24 to 26 years of age.

Among those who attended postsecondary education, 75% had graduated when interviewed in December 2005, of which 16% were pursuing further studies. Some 9% had not graduated but were still in postsecondary education and 15% had dropped out.

More women than men had participated in postsecondary education and their participation rate was higher for both university and college.  A higher proportion of them had completed between 24 and 26 years of age and a smaller proportion had dropped out.

Visible minority youth were more likely to participate to postsecondary education, especially in university.  There were no differences however, in terms of their likelihood of dropping out.

Whether the student was from a rural or urban community was also a determinant factor in postsecondary participation.  This was especially true for university level education, which suggested that proximity of a college more than a university influence their decision.  A higher proportion of rural students dropped out compared to urban students. Rural students were also less likely to have gone into further education after completing a first diploma.
The family structure, the parental educational attainment and the parental values towards postsecondary education were all related to postsecondary participation. The proportion of youth who participated in postsecondary increased as parental education increased. The dropout rates were significantly lower for those whose parents think that pursuing education was important.

Youth who were engaged in high school were more likely to attend postsecondary education.  A much higher proportion of postsecondary education dropouts reported lower levels on high school engagement scales.

Good marks in high school help youth participate in postsecondary education.  Almost 85% of youth who undertook graduate studies reported an overall average of 80 percent or more in high school.  Among youth who reported a grade average of 60 percent or less, over a third attended postsecondary education.  In December 2005, over three quarters of them had graduated or were still pursuing a program.  On the other hand, a significant proportion of youth with good high school marks dropped out of postsecondary education.

The first year experience was positive for the majority of youth who attended college or university.  However, in the first year, dropouts were already struggling in terms of meeting deadlines, academic performance and studying patterns. Compared to graduates and graduates continuers, more drop outs felt they had not found the right program.  On average, they spent less time studying which was also reflected in their overall grade average.  Consequently, more of them were thinking about leaving PSE in their first year.

The uptake of multiple programs while in postsecondary education was common.  However, despite the fact that dropouts were more likely to have reported problems with program fit, a small proportion of them attempted multiple programs before dropping out.