To Degree or Not To?

I know, I’m not the first to bastardize a Shakespeare quote and will not be the last. However the question is relevant and I don’t doubt will continue to be asked for generations to come. In this world of instant gratification and quick fixes, with SOOOO many options, how does one make a decision on what post secondary educational route to pursue?Not quickly answered and not lightly asked, this is most definitely a personal topic that will have a variety of emotions and responses attached to it.

So here I am a College Recruiter often tasked with providing information that will help guide solid decision making. Uh oh. What 17 year old out there truly knows and understands what they “want to be when the grow up” or how to be when they grown up? If you know them, send them my way. My own personal post secondary journey is a great example of what not to do, or is it? In the early 90s there was no conversation or community for me to be part of when researching my educational options. A small room adjacent to the guidance counselor’s office filled with academic calendars. That was not a forum of which I was keen to participate in. I was a degrassi kid, grew up with them and was graduating the same year they did. 1992 Lucy and Caitlin were going to attend Carleton Univeristy. Yep I just wanted to get out of Calgary and knew University was the way to do it, so I chose Ottawa based on the recommendation of fictional tv characters and a two week vacation in ninth grade. I had no idea what Film Studies was and didn’t bother to find out. How my life would have been different it I’d had access to the internet. Yeah it’s true. In the end I returned to Calgary and completed my degree.

Every day that I am engaged with a potential student there are a few predictable questions, like how do I apply, does the college offer this program? Every other day there are those questions that come right out of left field and force me to refer to my owen personal experiences as answers. Why should I go to school? Why should I stay in school? What difference does it really make?

GPRC is a comprehensive community college that offers everything from trades training, diplomas, universtity studies and collaborative degrees. We are a great resource in our rural regional area. Surprisingly enough we have students from over 16 countries inluding all across Canada that study and thrive on our campus. That being said, I have witnessed the trades/diploma vs. undergraduate degree debate more than once.

A recent article posted on twitter by @OISElibrary comments on recent trends toward diploma programs and technical training in Canada. The article debates the merits of long toothed degree studies vs short term programs that supposedly guarantee employment.

“Successful societies depend on creative people who are well rounded. That only comes from the grounding of curricula that are available at universities,” says David Naylor, president of the University of Toronto, in his office overlooking one of the city centre campus’ historic quadrangles.

“Applied education is sterile,” Naylor says. “And the view that graduates in arts or the humanities are somehow fiddling away for four years is regressive. It’s a classic trap in logic that people fall into when they imagine that every university degree has to have some employability prospect.”

However, Stephen Toope, president of the University of British Columbia, insists: “University is not for everybody. I don’t subscribe to the view that the best measure of success in a society is to increase the university participation rates exponentially. What this country needs is a diversity of higher education.”

(Retrieved 07/21/11

I agree with Stephen Toope that we “need diversity of education”. I also notice that the article fails to comment on what type of student is going into post secondary education. For me University was a place to grow, mature and learn about life. I often reflect on how different my experience would be if I were to enrol now, being mid thirties instead of seventeen. Would it make a difference at all?

That being said the smaller community college is more nimble, and can pride itself on efforts to listen to the community and provide what is being asked for. GPRC is known for its community involvement, for it student centred learning opportunities and being able to bridge the transition from uneducated and/or inexperienced to successfully trained skilled worker or university graduated. This diversity is what makes the college a great place to be and will continue to ensure learning opportunities for all types of students.

It doesn’t matter what post secondary route you pursue. If you are lacking work ethic, drive, ambition your chances of success are probably limited. So take the information to heart, reflect on it and find the courage inside to truly chase your dreams – there will be a post secondary program to assist you in reaching them.

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