Zigzag routes of Atlantic post-secondary students

Report finds many "dropouts" either transfer or suspend their studies

Statistics Canada has released a new study of post-secondary student persistence in the Atlantic provinces. The report was prepared by Ross Finnie and Theresa Qiu who authored a similar national study last year titled The Patterns of Persistence in Post-Secondary Education in Canada.

As with the earlier study, the new report shows that many of the students who leave post-secondary institutions before graduating actually switch to another institution or temporarily suspended their post-secondary education before enrolling again (often referred to as stop-outs). The report demonstrates that community college and university dropout rates tend to be overstated because students who switch institutions or leave briefly and return are often not taken into account.

The study found that the rate of leaving was higher for college students than for university students in Atlantic Canada. Among students aged 17 to 20 when they started university, men were more likely to leave their studies than women – 28% of men left compared to 22% of women. Amongst college students, the rates were almost identical for men and women (33% and 34% respectively).

The study found that 33% of students aged 17 to 20 who enrolled in a university in the fall of 2002 or 2003 had left their studies within two years, however, about 25% of these students switched to another institution. About 25% of the remaining university early leavers subsequently resumed their studies. For college students, the two-year dropout rate was about 35% over the same time period. The number of switchers amongst college students was much lower as compared to university students.

After accounting for switchers and stop-outs, the two-year dropout rate for Atlantic universities fell from 33% to 18% while the rate for colleges dropped from 35% to 29%.

The full report can be downloaded here in .pdf format.