Applications still pouring in to Ontario universities, despite continuing demographic downturn in university-age population

Despite a demographic shift that is resulting in a smaller university-age population, the latest university application figures show high school students are continuing to apply to Ontario universities in great numbers.

More than 87,600 secondary students filed more than 404,700 applications to Ontario’s 20 publicly funded universities for the 2015 academic year, with early indicators showing the number of non-high school applicants holding almost steady.

“Demographers have long predicted a decline in the 18-20 year old population so it is very gratifying that, even with a smaller potential pool, high school students are still turning to universities in such large numbers,” Max Blouw, Chair of the Council of Ontario Universities (COU) and President of Wilfrid Laurier University, said today.

“High school students are seeking a university education to fulfil their life’s goals and to establish their future careers, while those who are already out of high school are upgrading their skills in response to the changing needs of the labour market.”

The number of secondary students who applied to university this year is only slightly down from the 89,272 who applied at this time last year, and up 48 per cent since 2000.

As of 2014, the number of non-high school applicants since 2000 has doubled, increasing by 111.7 per cent. That cohort includes those returning to university from the workforce, college students transferring to university, mature students, and applicants from high schools in other provinces and overseas.

“Even as the province’s economic recovery continues to be slow and demographics change, people recognize that university is still the best path to a well-paying full-time career,” says COU President and CEO Bonnie M. Patterson.

Ontario university graduates experience high levels of employment: more than 93 per cent of undergraduates who graduated in 2011 had jobs two years later. The average salary for university graduates working full time was $49,398 after graduation.

Population projections from Ontario’s Ministry of Finance have long been predicting a decline in the population of university-aged youth in Ontario that began four years ago and is expected to continue until 2021. The demographic shift is the result of population patterns that developed as a result of the baby boom. The children of baby boomers created their own demographic bump, and we have now entered a period in which these individuals are older and no longer at the typical age that youth begin university.

Visit the Ontario Universities’ Application Centre website.


COU is a membership organization of 21 publicly assisted universities in Ontario. It works closely with the provincial and federal governments to shape public policies that help universities deliver high-quality programs for students and advance the research and innovation that improves the social, cultural and economic well-being of Ontarians.

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