Demographics blamed for drop in Ontario university applications

Number of 18-year-olds declining in every province


University of Guelph students (Jessica Darmanin)

After at least a decade of year-over-year growth, preliminary results from the Ontario University Application Centre show fewer Ontario high school students applied to Ontario universities this January than one year ago. There were 89,272 applicants in 2014 compared to 92,554 in 2013. The deadline to apply was Jan. 15.

The Council of Ontario Universities wrote in a press release that this was expected due to demographic trends and pointed out that demand is still high compared to historical averages. By comparison, 72,972 Ontario high school students applied in in Jan. 2004.

But the statistics are a reminder that the number of Canadians hitting age 18—when they’re most likely to start a post-secondary education—is declining, and that could have implications for anyone interested in attending university in the next decade.

Future students might hope it means less crowded classrooms but a more likely scenario is that newly freed up seats will be filled by the 450,000 international students Canada said last week it will recruit by 2022. The extra spots might also be taken by those who couldn’t previously get in.

Either way, some provinces will be more affected than others. Statistics Canada’s projected change in the number of 18-year-olds based on a medium growth scenario is presented in the table below. Quebec and Atlantic provinces are expected to have the greatest declines in the number of university-aged residents while Ontario, Alberta, B.C. and Manitoba will be less effected.

2010 2012 2014 2016 2018 2020 10-year change in 18-year-old residents
Nfld. 6,200 5,800 5,600 5,400 5,400 5,100 -17.7%
P.E.I. 2,100 1,900 1,900 1,800 1,800 1,600 -23.8%
N.S 12,400 11,800 11,500 10,700 10,600 10,000 -19.4%
N.B. 9,600 9,200 8,600 8,300 8,200 7,800 -18.75%
Que. 103,200 98,300 94,200 86,200 84,300 83,200 -19.38%
Ont. 180,200 177,300 175,800 168,00 167,400 165,400 -8.2%
Man. 18,000 17,900 17,400 16,600 16,800 16,400 -8.9%
Sask. 14,900 14,300 13,700 13,100 13,100 12,700 -14.8%
Alta. 50,100 48,800 48,200 46,100 46,200 45,700 -8.8%
B.C 58,300 57,800 57,700 55,400 55,700 55,500 -4.8%

Source: Statistics Canada. Table 052-0005—Projected population, by projection scenario, sex and age group as of July 1, Canada, provinces and territories, annual (persons), CANSIM (database).


Demographics blamed for drop in Ontario university applications

  1. It would be nice if they explained why so few 18yo are enrolling…would make it more interesting too. Just based on my own experience my guess would be because more people are taking a year off to work and save up.

  2. What they’re saying Kat is that proportionally the same number of students are applying to university (i.e. X%); however, the absolute number (i.e. X% * Y number of 18 y/o’s) is decreasing.

    That’s why it’s a ‘demographic’ problem, rather than proportionately less people wanting to go to uni.

  3. Perhaps more people are seeing that the value of post-secondary education is not as good a deal as it is purported to be. After all, not everyone is suited for university or college. More people may be going directly into the trades, for example, where a very good income can be made. Instead of being a purely demographic issue, this may be more indicative of a shifting trend away from value-less post-secondary education, and the accumulation of a significant student loan debt obligation, a purely rational and practical choice.

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