The myth that an undergraduate degree no longer carries the value it once did is being challenged by the results of recent studies conducted at the University of Ottawa's Education Policy Research Initiative (EPRI).
This research, which relies on new methodology, shows strong and positive labour market earning patterns for University of Ottawa graduates from 1998 through to 2011.
While graduates' starting salaries were relatively moderate, the growth in earnings over time is quite striking and these findings apply for pretty much all broad areas of study, said Ross Finnie, the study's lead author and director of the EPRI.
Among the interesting findings, the researchers established that:
- The average earnings of social science graduates immediately following graduation were $40,000, a figure that doubled to approximately $80,000 within 13 years.
- The average earnings of humanities graduates were initially similar to those of their social sciences counterparts. However, their earnings did not grow quite as much over time.
- Health science graduates, conversely, started at higher average earnings but experienced slower earnings growth over time.
- Math, computer science, and engineering graduates had generally higher earnings than other graduates but faced much more volatile outcomes over time.
This research provides a new and unique perspective on graduate outcomes due to its use of an innovative method of comparing data. The researchers matched University of Ottawa administrative data with Statistics Canada tax records to track outcomes in a given student cohort on a yearly basis. This new methodology had never been used before.
This methodology offers a much richer scope for studying various aspects of education programs and can track employment, social and other outcomes over time, as opposed to existing surveys that yield a single snapshot in time, remarked labour market expert and noted Canadian economist Don Drummond.
This work should provide valuable new information for young people choosing their academic programs, as well as for policymakers, employers and the general public.
The results from this research demonstrate that we can now both broaden the analysis to include more postsecondary institutions across the country, and deepen our understanding of how specific student characteristics and schooling experiences affect what happens to graduates when they leave the education system, concluded Professor Finnie.
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