College and Predatory Statistics: How Students Are Being Exploited

Life is difficult. There’s plenty of directions our lives can take. It’s a daunting task, that isn’t always clear. I’ve tried things that didn’t necessarily work out. As I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten better at trying to direct myself down roads I think I can be successful in. I’ve been able to accomplish this task largely in part to me figuring out who I am as a person.

I know my strengths, as well as my weaknesses. A student fresh out of high-school doesn’t always know this. When I was a teenager I was vulnerable and susceptible to the opinions of others. Regardless of how strong willed any teenager is, they are all impressionable. Going to school and getting an education is important. I would say that this isn’t the route that everyone should or has to take. However, I will always advocate the importance of higher-education.

For many we see it as the logical next step when transitioning from high-school to the real world. Gearing our passions and dreams into our work allows us to take ideas and concepts and evolve them. I once read an article that made the point that many architects have one thing in common – they all played LEGO as a child. Our interests grow over time and change, just as we do.

Youth are vulnerable at this time in their lives. What I wanted when I was navigating my life through the treacherous waters of career planning was cold hard facts. I wanted it straight up, not watered down. I wanted to know what my Return on Investment was if I spent x amount of years and dollars in a program. I wanted to know what my job prospects were. I wanted statistics.

I wound up getting statistics, just extremely biased ones. I was told about a Key Performance Indicator or KPI Study Sheridan College does every year. The study is completed by recent graduates. The KPI chart includes the pool from which the statistics were drawn, or the number of students who completed the survey. The following columns are for employment rate and satisfaction rate. I was lead to believe that the industry I was pursuing was one of growth and prosperity. Of course there is some fault I will take as an individual, but I didn’t really understand post-secondary education at the time. Like many students you don’t fully understand that it’s more of a business than an educational institution until they’ve got your money.

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The picture above is an ad campaign used at George Brown College in Toronto. The ad promises that grads get “the job” within 6 months of graduation. It doesn’t specify what that job exactly is.

I received a call a couple months after graduation from Sheridan College asking me to answer a survey. I was asked once I graduated if I had a job, which I did. Like most of my peers I was gainfully underemployed. I wasn’t asked if I had found work in my chosen field of study. All they wanted to know was whether I had a job or not. The majority of my peers all went back to working the same jobs they had before they entered College. The program was obviously not overly successful at helping students find employment. I’d put the numbers at under 20% for the amount of students who found jobs related to Journalism, and that number is being generous. Though if you read the KPI you wouldn’t know that.

At the time it stated that the program had an 88% Graduate Employment Rate. Currently the program has an 80% Graduate Employment Rate. For any prospective student looking at this information the logical conclusion is that their future job prospects look rather good. These studies are disingenuous and harmful to students. They paint a false picture of the labour market. In many ways these statistics attempt to exploit and manipulate students. This is not a one College problem. Many educational institutions are guilty of this.

There will always be people who have a passion to do something, and will want to go to school for it. They are the people who will fight against all odds to do what they want to do in life. They are the people who will see the Graduate Employment Rate at 20% and say, “I’ll be part of that minority”. I believe that the majority of people aren’t like this, and those are the ones who suffer.

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