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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Access to postsecondary education : a comparative study of British Columbia and Ontario Lee, Jacy S. H.


The purpose of this study was to better understand government policies concerning access to postsecondary education in Ontario and British Columbia. The five questions guiding this study are: 1) What are the key postsecondary education access policies? 2) How does the policy environment influence postsecondary education policies? 3) What policy trends are associated with the government priorities or seat expansion, affordability and research and development? 4) What is the relationship between government's postsecondary funding policies and the economic environment? and 5) How do policies affect provincial postsecondary funding, enrolment, participation, tuition fees, and investment in research and development? The study provides a policy narrative of key postsecondary education access policies and analyses the key forces affecting these policies in the two provinces. The three key postsecondary education access policy areas include increasing capacity through seat and institutional expansion; enhancing affordability of postsecondary education to students through tuition fee regulation and student financial assistance; and expanding research and development. Policies in the two provinces have tended to be similar. Key factors that have affected policies include the historical development of postsecondary education, the socio-cultural values and expectations of the population; policy discussions among dominant stakeholders; the political ideology of the government party; and federal-provincial relations. This study also compares the policy trends and postsecondary education outcomes in both provinces for each of the above three policy areas. Major policy trends in capacity expansion include faster seat growth in the college sector than in the university sector; growing emphasis on meeting economic and labour demands, evolution of hybrid public institutions offering new applied degree programs, and emergence of private degree granting institutions. Key factors contributing to these policy trends include the belief that economic prosperity is linked with postsecondary education, severe limitations on public spending for postsecondary education especially during difficult economic times, and the historical binary structure of postsecondary education that contributed to shaping the emerging postsecondary landscape. There is apparently no consistent relationship between postsecondary funding trends and the economic environment in either province. As well, there are significant differences in funding trends between Ontario and BC. The study concludes with recommendations for policy makers and for future researchers.

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