According to the 2016 Canadian census, 19% of Canadians are university educated. The Maritime Province’s Higher Education Commission’s June 2019 report on university graduates’ employment profiles indicates that this 19% of the Canadian population stands to earn 25% more than the general population in annual full-time earnings. As well as this increase in potential earnings, the university educated have a higher employment rate. While the employment rate of the general population stands at 94%, the university educated are employed at a rate of 96%. This 19% is not evenly spread across the country though. While the 19% of Canadians may be university educated, the Maritime university education rate is only 15.83%. New Brunswick’s university education rate is even lower. Only 13.87% of New Brunswickers hold university certificates, diplomas or degrees at bachelor level or above.
Despite the higher potential earning derived from such an education, New Brunswick cannot seem to attract as many of its citizens to its post-secondary institutions as the rest of Canada. As the Maritime Provinces’ Higher Education Commission’s April 2019 report on university participation rates states, over the past fifteen years home province participation rates have declined across the Maritimes, however, they have more or less stabilized in the last four years. The problem, especially in New Brunswick, is that this stabilization cannot last given the province’s shrinking population. As the province’s population declines, so too does the pool of potential university educated workers. It seems then that despite the increased earning potential, university education in New Brunswick is not working, or at the very least not appealing enough, for New Brunswickers.
Section 1: Student Populations
New Brunswick’s public universities currently host 18,522 students, including both undergraduate and graduate degree programs. However, only the University of New Brunswick, Université de Moncton, and Mount Allison University (hereafter referred to as UNB, UdM, and MTA respectively) offer graduate programs, as St. Thomas University (hereafter referred to as STU) offers undergraduate certificates exclusively. The total provincial enrollment of 18,522 students is limited in its consideration to public institutions because the province’s three private intuitions – Crandall University, Kingswood University, and St. Stephen’s University – do not make typically make their enrollment numbers public. Given the fact that St. Stephen’s University admits only 30 students per year, it is safe to assume that their total enrollment is 120 persons or less depending on the school’s retention rate. Kingswood University claims to have approximately 140 students, with 130 of these students being full time and 10 being part time.
As has been stated, public institution enrollment has been steadily declining since 2012. Even prior to this decline, however, enrollment had only seen marginal growth with increases of less than one percent per year. Enrollment may be stabilizing now at a lower level than in the 2000s, but prior to the decline in enrollments in the 2010s enrollment had been witnessing comparable stability – or perhaps stagnation.
UNB has seen the most sustained losses in enrollment, while STU and MTA have remained relatively stable despite declining provincial enrollments. UdM is the only public institution to see a year over year increase in enrollment since the 2015-2016 academic year, though this 2018-2019 success is most likely a statistical anomaly and not an indicator of future growth. Overall the province’s universities have seen notable declines in their student populations, and there does not appear to be any indication that enrollment numbers will increase in the coming years. While the 2011 census recorded 45,845 people in the age group 15-19 – those of the population most likely to be incoming to provincial universities – the 2016 census recorded only 40,605.
Breakdown of Annual Enrollment by Institution
|Academic Year||MTA||STU||UdM||UNB||Total Provincial Enrollment|
Section 2: Retention Rates
As enrollment is declining, the next statistic of interest is the student retention rate. The retention rate encompasses both persistence and graduation rates with persistence referring to the percentage of students continuing with their university education after their first year and graduation referring to the percentage of students who actually complete their degrees within 6 years. With fewer students enrolling, it is vital for the provincial economy that the maximum amount of students possible not only commence but complete their university education.
While enrollment dropped dramatically in the 2012-2013 academic year, the persistence rates among students remained remarkably stable. The MPHEC’s May 2018 study of Student Progression in the Maritime University System: Persistence and Graduation recorded persistence rates after one and two years for the 2001 to 2014 cohorts, and despite dramatic changes in enrollment, the persistence of those students who did enroll remained remarkably stable.
The average persistence rate after one year among maritime students across all fourteen cohorts studied is 82.8%, and the average persistence rate after two years is 73.8%. The 2012 cohort, the students in enrolling in their first year in the 2012-2013 academic year boast a one year persistence rate of 82.6% and a two year persistence rate of 73.2%. Despite the decline in enrollment, the decline in persistence rates is almost imperceptible. As for the 2013 cohort, while enrollment continued to decline as they entered their first year, both their one year and two year persistence rates – 83% and 73.9% – were higher than the 14 cohort average.
Graduation rates are more difficult to quantify than persistence rates because of the necessary longevity of any study recording them. While 89.1% of the 2006 cohort’s programs of first entry were four-year programs, only 38% of students in both three- and four-year programs had actually graduated after four years. Studies will therefore provide the most beneficial results after six or seven years, rather than four as one may imagine. On account of the necessary longevity of studies concerning graduation rates, there is far less data available than for persistence rates. Nonetheless, the MPHEC has produced a study tracking the persistence and graduation rates of students in the 2006 and 2009 cohorts over seven years.
In both cohorts, less than half of students who initially enrolled completed their degrees on time. Between 2006 and 2009, however, there is a 3% increase in system-level graduation after 4 years, which is an improvement. After 5 years there is a significant increase to a graduation rate of approximately 60% in both cohorts, but after 6 years there is only minimal increases indicating that after 5 years the impetus to finish one’s degree promptly may fade. The trend toward extending one’s first or only degree may benefit universities as it extends the amount of time that the university may depend on a single student for tuition fees, but it negatively impacts the province as it creates a lull in the replenishment of the labor force.
Section 3: Full Time Versus Part Time Enrollments
One factor which drastically increases the length of time a student spends earning their first post-secondary degree is the choice to study part time rather than full time. The post-secondary education system is most efficient when students devote themselves to full-time study for the least possible years. On average, only 9.67% of students attending public universities in New Brunswick are part time students. If broken down into undergraduate and graduate students, these averages change significantly. Considering that the provincial average for part time undergraduate students as a percent of the total provincial student population is 6.62%, both UdM and UNB appear to garner higher rates of part time students. Both STU and MTA, being universities of comparable sizes, each have only half the provincial average of part time students. As for graduate students, the percentage of part time students is roughly a third at both UdM and UNB. The average at MTA is comparable, but understandably distinct given the disparity in total graduate student enrollments between itself and the two larger public institutions.
|Total Provincial Enrollment||Part Time Enrollment||Part Time Enrollment as % of Total Enrollment|
|Total Provincial UG Enrollment||Part Time UG Enrollment||Part Time UG Enrollment as % of Total UG Enrollment|
|Total Provincial Gd Enrollment||Part Time Gd Enrollment||Part Time Gd Enrollment as % of Total Gd Enrollment|
|Institution||Total Enrollment||Part Time Student Enrollment||Part Time Student Enrollment as % Total Enrollment|
|Institution||Total UG Enrollment||Part Time UG Enrollment||Part Time UG Enrollment as % Total UG Enrollment|
|Institution*||Total Gd Enrollment||Part Time Gd Enrollment||Part Time Gr Enrollment as % Total Gr Enrollment|
*STU not included as it does not offer graduate programs
Section 4: Provincial Operating Grants
While tuition fees are vital to the functioning of New Brunswick universities, these fees do not represent the plurality of their revenues. Provincial operating grants represent nearly half of all the public institutions’ budgeted revenues. While the average across all four institutions is 55.31% of revenues derived directly from provincial operating grants, MTA and STU receive only 46.36% and 48.38% of their annual budgets respectively. Notably UdM’s provincial operating grant represents a much larger percentage of total revenues, though this may be because of a lack of specificity in their budget’s breakdown of revenues. Rather than listing the provincial operating grant on its own as a source of revenue like the other public institution’s budgets, the UdM budget lists provincial grant(s) as a unified category.
|Institution||2019-2020 Budgeted Revenues||Provincial Operating Grant||POG as % of total Revenues|
|Mount Allison University||$ 45,182,223||$ 20,949,295||46.36%|
|St. Thomas University||$ 29,693,900||$ 14,366,000||48.38%|
|Universite de Moncton||$ 112,439,000||$ 76,233,642||67.80%|
|University of New Brunwick||$ 197,200,000||$ 117,200,000||58.71%|
The provincial government now also provides tuition to students through its Renewed Tuition Bursary. As the government of New Brunswick website reads,
The Renewed Tuition Bursary is a program designed to help post-secondary students by providing more upfront bursary funding to students from families with the greatest financial need so that they may graduate with less debt; and increasing affordability and access for New Brunswick student financial assistance recipients choosing to attend a public or private college or university located in New Brunswick.
While the bursary helps alleviate student debt, it also serves as a secondary source of government funding to provincial universities with no conditions on how this money is to be used. While a less direct subsidy to public universities, it nonetheless cushions the province’s universities from the market stresses of decreased enrollment rates. The provincial government says that it is estimated that 9,500 students will be eligible for the program in the 2019-20 academic year that begins Aug. 1. While the bursary only pays “the maximum benefit for students from families with a gross income of $60,000 or less and employs a sliding scale which gradually reduces the benefit to students from families with incomes greater than $60,000, up to the maximum income cut-off,” the RTB still defers at least some of the cost of over half the current number of New Brunswick students. While the RTB may be a benefit to students and overall enrollment rates – though no increase in enrollment has yet been observed – it undermines the development of any sense of financial self-sufficiency for the province’s public institutions.
Section 5: International & Out of Province Students
One means of raising revenues popular in post-secondary institutions is the attraction of international students. New Brunswick’s public institutions host 2169 international students as of the 2018-2019 academic year, all of whom pay far higher tuition fees than domestic students. As undergraduate international students are not funded through government operating grants, the international tuition fees approximate the cost of providing services according to the St. Thomas 2018-2019 budgetary report. International students represent 11.71% of total provincial enrollment. When considered as a percentage of the total revenues taken in by the universities, each public institution receives approximately 8% of its total revenue from international students. Both MTA and STU have lower international enrollment rates than the provincial average, while UdM and UNB are above the average. That being said, in the case of STU, while enrollment rates are dropping, international student enrollment is actually increasing. Though this increase is marginal, considering the school’s size, the financial benefit of this growth in international student enrollment is quite notable.
The retention rate of international students is also important to consider. International students are source of greater revenue than domestic students on an annual basis because of their higher tuition rates, but the revenue derived from international students is far greater if students also complete four to six years of university. On average, 61.2% of Maritimes who study in their home province graduate within 6 years. International students, however, graduate after six years at a rate of 60.6%. If New Brunswick universities want to maximize revenues from international students, these rates must be improved. As evident by the rates of student persistence after one year, international students are the most likely to depart after one year. They are also the least likely to continue their education at another maritime institution.
On the other hand, the students most likely to graduate within six years are maritime students originating from another maritime province. 70.3% of students studying at a maritime university from another maritime province graduate within 6 years, and 69.3% of students from elsewhere in Canada graduate within 6 years. While these domestic students do not pay international tuition rates, they do serve as a more reliable source of revenue for maritime universities on account of their increased retention rates. With this in mind, a third tier of tuition pricing could be considered by provincial universities targeting out of province students. If an increase in out of province tuition could be introduced at a rate high enough to increase revenues but low enough not to drastically decrease out-of-province enrollment, this could serve. Quebec can serve as a beneficial model for this sort of tiered tuition system.
|Institution||International Students||International Tuition Rates||International Students as % of Total Student Population|
|Institution||2019-2020 Budgeted Revenues||International Student Tuition Revenues||International Student Tuition Revenues as % of total Revenues|
Section 6: Fields of Study
Another factor requiring attention when attempting to evaluate the performance of New Brunswick’s post-secondary institutions and its students is students’ chosen field of study. One’s discipline plays a large part in determining a graduate’s ability to enter and succeed in the labor force, as certain fields of study open different careers paths and financial opportunities to their graduates. With this in mind, one’s chosen discipline is not the only factor which determines a graduate’s ability to find employment. One’s field of study, especially in at the undergraduate level, may prove entirely unrelated to one’s long term career trajectory. Certain fields of study may nonetheless be described as professional fields, meaning that the discipline is geared toward bridging its graduates directly into the workforce insofar as this is possible. While contemporary university administrations aim to market all of its fields of study as leading directly to employment opportunities, in reality this is not the case for many more academic fields.
Currently the five most popular fields of study in New Brunswick universities are business, management and public administration, health and related fields, general arts, social and behavioural sciences and law, and architecture, engineering, and related technologies. As of the 2010-2011 academic year business, management, and public administration has held the top spot, but even as far back as 2007-2008 it was one of only two fields to attract over 3000 students a year. Of these five fields, business, health, architecture, and to a certain extent social and behavioural sciences and law can be considered professional programs, while general arts is not.
Despite not being a professional program, prior to 2010 general arts was the dominant field of study in the province. Even after falling beneath business, arts continues to attract many students, especially undergraduates. The 2012-2013 school year brought a drastic decline in arts enrollments, coinciding with an increase of enrollment in health. It is of note that unlike health which has a rate of change in enrollment year over year comparable to the rate of change in total enrollment, general arts and business have more erratic fluctuations. From 2009 to 2018, the rate of change in enrollment in health and related fields only deviates from the province’s rate of change by more than one percent twice – once in 2009-2010 and once in 2015-2016 – and even then, these deviations do not exceed a difference of 3.5%. General arts and business on the other hand routinely deviate from the provincial rate of change, indicating that changes in the factors which affect willingness to enroll in post-secondary institutions affect these fields of study disproportionately. The academic year of 2012-2013 is the greatest example of this disproportionate vulnerability, as the provincial rate of change in enrollment was only -0.65% while the rates of change in business and arts respectively were -10.84% and -62.35%. The following year, while total provincial enrollment and enrollment in health and related fields decreased by 3.37% and 4.01% respectively, business saw an increase in enrollment of 10.56% and general arts saw an astounding increase of 117.20%. As it stands then, while the fields of arts and business are more popular among New Brunswick students, they are also more plagued by uncertainty than other fields of study.
Education, architecture, and health and related fields are clustered into applied and professional programs. These professional programs see 62% of their graduates enter the workplace directly after graduation. Of the four discipline clusters defined by the MHPEC, 62% is the highest rate of placement. Two years after graduation, these graduates enjoyed the strongest link between their employment and their studies, as well as the highest earnings. Education has had significant struggles over the last ten years. In 2008-2009 it was more popular than both architecture and social science but has since plummeted in popularity. Unlike most other fields which experienced a depression in enrollment in 2012-2013, education has been in constant decline over the entire ten-year period. Consequently, it is the only field – with the exception of health – to not experience any sort of recovery in enrollment in the 2013-2014 academic year. The decrease in education enrollment should be particularly concerning to New Brunswickers.
There are, of course, also outlier fields which have shown great resilience over the past decade and ought to be given more attention. As stated earlier the last ten years has seen a remarkable increase of interest in the field of social and behavioral sciences and law. Unlike general arts and business which also saw catastrophic declines in enrollment in 2012-2013 and have never recovered numbers comparable to their previous high-water marks, social and behavioural sciences boasts the best trend line of the top five fields of study. While it is not the most popular field of study by far, mathematics, computer and information sciences could be considered the best performing field of the past ten years. Not only was mathematics unaffected by the enrollment issues of 2012-2013, it has seen continuous growth.
Because of the relatively high number of universities compared to the provincial population, program specialization will prove to be the greatest justification for the continued existence of all four public universities, and fields like social and behavioral sciences and mathematics, computer and information sciences are the best candidates for specialized programs of this sort.
 http://www.mphec.ca/media/181587/Class-of-2012-in-2018_Employment-Profile_Report.pdf, the increase of median annual earnings for New Brunswickers with university degrees as compared to the general population is even greater than the national increase at 36%.
 These numbers were only rough estimates communicated to me through the registrar’s office. Like St. Stephen’s, Kingswood accepts relatively few students per year. Crandall would presumably be the largest of the province’s private universities and must successful in terms of enrollment numbers, but the registrar’s office declined my request to include their numbers in our report.
 For further information cf. appendix A.
 Undergraduate international students are not funded through government operating grants. Consequently, the international tuition fee should approximate the cost of providing services., 11.
 Kingwood also informed me that they currently host two international students.
 http://www.mphec.ca/media/168264/PerstGradTables2018.pdf. Based on the 2001-2009 cohorts of the Six year graduation rate by student origin of all Maritime universities combined .
 http://www.mphec.ca/media/168264/PerstGradTables2018.pdf . Summarize the other clusters.
 The only exceptions to this depression in enrollment of the fourteen fields of study were mathematics, information and computer sciences, architecture, engineering and related technologies, and to a certain extent health and related fields.