I was reading through the Campus Alberta Planning Framework and reviewing the annual report from Alberta Advanced Education and Technology this morning and got to thinking about expectations on enrolment. It is no secret that our participation rate here in Alberta is low, the lowest in Canada. The Government of Alberta measures what percentage of 18-34 year olds are enrolled in some form of post-secondary, and at 16.9% we are the lowest in Canada and 8% back of the national leader, Quebec.
Many people, including Minister Doug Horner, have lamented this participation rate. There are of course many factors that lead to the this poor participation rate – our still relatively booming economy, the opportunity cost compared to earnings in the energy sector and so-on. Other factors that government has more control over are things like our system capacity and the cost of getting a degree.
The question that popped in my head was what our goal was. Even with the lowest participation rate in Canada it might shock you to know that the Government of Alberta still met its target – the goal is for 17% of 18-24 year olds, and rounded up that is what we have.
Why are we striving to be the worst in Canada? With all of the resources our province has you would think that we could dream bigger than that. We should revisit that goal, set a high standard and then strive to meet it. Lower costs, increase spaces and improve access.