Methods and definitions
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The analysis for this report is based on data from the Youth in Transition Survey (YITS). The survey was designed by Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC) and Statistics Canada. YITS is a longitudinal survey, which collects information on educational and labour market pathways of a sample of young Canadians in the 18 to 20 age group in 1999. They were interviewed four times since the implementation of the survey, in 2000, 2002, 2004 and 2006. In this report, the data used are from the first four cycles and describe where they stood in their education and labour market pathways in December 2005 when they were 24 to 26 years of age.1 It should be noted that the sample in 2005 is not necessarily representative of all 24 to 26 years old in Canada. It is only representative of the original 18 to 20 years old cohort that was selected in 1999.
This report is a follow-up of a previous study of postsecondary participation (Shaienks and Gluszynski, 2007). The objective of that study was to examine demographic and family characteristics, high school engagement, academic performance, and first year postsecondary experiences of those who attended postsecondary education, those who did not and those who dropped out. The report was based on overall postsecondary education status, which means that the type of institution attended was not considered in the establishment of the status.
The overall postsecondary status is a roll up of all other statuses. It brings together the combined outcomes of all attempts in all types of postsecondary institutions. Overall dropouts were university, college or other type of institution students, who after dropping out, did not undertake another program in another type of institution or if they did, they dropped out again.
For the purpose of this report, three new variables were developed to account for the types of institutions attended by the student and the status in each of them. The university status, the college status and the other type of institution postsecondary status permits the independent determination of the outcomes of participation in the different types of institutions and the profile of graduates, continuers and especially dropouts according to their specific characteristics.
The University Status encompasses all of the following groups:
A University Graduate is someone who graduated from a university and includes both graduate continuers and graduate non-continuers;
A University Graduate Continuer is someone who has already graduated from a university and is still pursuing education at a university.
A University Graduate Non-Continuer is someone who has graduated from a university and is not pursuing education in a university.
A University Continuer is someone who is attending a university but has not yet graduated.
A University Dropout is someone who has attended a university but is no longer pursuing it and has never graduated from his university program.
The College Status encompasses all of the following groups:
A College Graduate is someone who graduated from a college / CEGEP and includes both graduate continuers and graduate non-continuers;
A College Graduate Continuer is someone who has already graduated from a college / CEGEP and is still pursuing education at this type of institution.
A College Graduate Non-Continuer is someone who has graduated from a college / CEGEP and is not pursuing education at this type of postsecondary institution.
A College Continuer is someone who is attending a college / CEGEP but has not yet graduated.
A College Dropout is someone who has attended postsecondary education but is no longer pursuing it and has never graduated from his college / CEGEP program.
The Other Postsecondary Status encompasses all of the following groups:
An Other Postsecondary Graduate is someone who graduated from another type of postsecondary institution and includes both graduate continuers and graduate non-continuers;
An Other Postsecondary Education Graduate Continuer is someone who has already graduated from another type of postsecondary institution and is still pursuing education at the same type of postsecondary institution.
An Other Postsecondary Education Graduate Non-Continuer is someone who has graduated from another type of postsecondary institution and is not pursuing education in this type of postsecondary institution.
An Other Postsecondary Education Continuer is someone who is attending another Postsecondary Education institution but has not yet graduated.
An Other Postsecondary Education Dropout is someone who has attended another type of postsecondary education but is no longer pursuing it and has never graduated from his other Postsecondary Education institution program.
As indicated in the introduction, this report takes a different approach to calculating dropout rates from Canadian postsecondary institutions made possible by longitudinal data. It measures the overall number of failed attempts at obtaining credentials, even if the individual eventually graduates. Thus far, dropout rates were always calculated based on individuals who attempted postsecondary education, were not in it at the time of data collection and had not obtained a credential by that time. Therefore, it did not capture the failed attempts as these went unaccounted for by changing the type of institutions. The difference in result from the two measurement methods was sizeable.
Participation levels, graduation and dropout rates by December 2005, by type of institution
The conventional method yielded a dropout rate of 15% (Shaienks and Gluszynski, 2007). However, as shown in Figure 1, there were over 956,000 individuals who attempted postsecondary education during the time frame covered by the survey. In total, these individuals reported over 250,000 episodes of failed attempts at completing their studies, yielding a dropout rate of 21%, which is significantly higher than previously reported. The difference in these two rates represents roughly 130,000 failed attempts that previously went unreported.
The data used for calculating this rate was only representative of individuals who were between the ages of 18 and 20 in December of 1999. Therefore, the estimated level of dropouts underestimates the overall level faced by Canadian postsecondary institutions. This number of failure episodes is an indication of the level of societal and individual costs.
This report profiles respondents who attempted to obtain postsecondary education credentials along their demographic, family and school characteristics. Although, the first section looks at dropouts, graduates and continuers, the second section of the report is dedicated to profiling dropouts only.
- Appendix A provides supplementary information about the survey.
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