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A dramatic rise in enrolment at Ontario’s colleges and universities over the past two decades has done little to achieve equitable access for those students who have been traditionally underrepresented in higher education, argues a new report by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO).
Decades of research has shown that first-generation students (those whose parents didn’t complete postsecondary), low-income students, Indigenous students and students with disabilities are less likely to enrol in postsecondary education, and less likely to attain a PSE credential than their peers. Successive federal and provincial governments have sought to boost participation of underrepresented students by encouraging enrolment growth, expanding student financial assistance, capping tuition fees and providing targeted funding to institutions to recruit and support these students, the report notes.
The report, Redefining Access to Postsecondary Education, argues that a new approach to access is needed, one that focuses limited provincial resources on helping underrepresented students rather than continuing to expand overall enrolment. And it argues that truly effective access policies and interventions must be applied at the K-12 sector.