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Postsecondary Enrolment and Parental Income


Among a variety of factors that can influence students’ pursuing a postsecondary education, parental income plays one of the key roles. It is important to determine whether there are any changes in trends for the years of 2001-2014 in students’ enrolment in postsecondary education based on the factor of parental income. These trends are to be examined because they can potentially affect the current situation in the sphere of higher education in Canada.

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Parental income, defined as parents’ after-tax financial resources, has a major impact on students’ opportunities to pursue higher education. In order to address the needs of students from lower-income families, certain initiatives and programs were developed and proposed by the Canadian government to make post-secondary education available for diverse students. Frenette (2017) has studied potential changes in the trends for the enrolment of students in higher institutions depending on the parental income factor, with reference to the possible impact of these programs on the tendency. The T1 Family File includes the data for 19-year-old students from different provinces of Canada who were enrolled in postsecondary institutions during 2001-2014 (Frenette, 2017). This file has been reviewed and analyzed to indicate the recent trends in postsecondary enrolment with a focus on parental income.

Current Status

The recently observed trend is that the percentage of 19-year-old students who are enrolled in higher education tends to increase. In 2001, this percentage was 52.6%, and in 2014, it was 63.8% (Frenette, 2017). This situation is most typical of students from low-income families. The number of students from these families, who are enrolled in a postsecondary course, increased by 24.9% in 2014 in comparison to the 8.3% increase reported for high-income families (Frenette, 2017). In Eastern provinces, more 19-year-old individuals were enrolled in postsecondary programs in contrast to the number of students in Western provinces. The most significant growth was observed in Newfoundland and Labrador (by 18.7% and 16.1% accordingly) (Frenette, 2017). Furthermore, the number of female students enrolled in post-secondary institutions is still higher than the number of male students, as it is stated in the study.


The reported data indicate that, for students coming from low-income families, the percentage demonstrating the enrolment in postsecondary institutions increased more significantly in comparison to the other group of students. Therefore, parental income seems not to be directly and positively correlated with the number of students obtaining higher education. Referring to the data by Frenette (2017), it is possible to assume that the reason is in the implementation of several governmental programs to provide students with more opportunities to pursue post-secondary education. From this perspective, this assumption requires further examination, analysis, and discussion.

Next Steps

At this stage, the next steps to address the issue may include the further introduction of new programs in order to decrease the impact of parental income on students’ enrolment in post-secondary programs. Further improvement and development of the existing programs are also required to contribute to the observed positive trend. In addition, further analysis of situations in Eastern and Western provinces is necessary in order to identify possible differences in the application of the governmental initiatives. This step can be discussed as important in order to improve the realization of programs and increase the students’ enrolment in the Western provinces of Canada.


Frenette, M. (2017). Postsecondary enrolment by parental income: Recent national and provincial trends. Economic Insights, 70, 1-10.

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