According to a study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 18.5 per cent of graduates make less than the median income of $37,002. That’s a higher proportion than any other country in the OECD.
However, over a lifetime, someone with a post-secondary degree still makes $1.3 million more than someone with a high-school degree, according to another study by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.
The conflicting numbers hint at the discrepancy between the earning power of different university degrees.
“If you’re solely focused on income, there are certain choices you should make,” Charles Cirtwill, president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, told CTV News.
Considering that an undergraduate degree leaves a student with a debt that averages about $23,000, it’s a choice that comes with a major financial burden.
According to the federal Department of Finance, engineering, math and business degrees are the best investments, with a return of 12 to 17 per cent annually.
An arts degree, on the other hand, has returns as low as four to six per cent, which would not even cover the interest on a student loan.
Many arts students end up taking more school, either going to college or going to grad school, at even more expense.
It’s a daunting thought for Dalhousie University International Development student Sam Holland.
“I don’t know how it’s sustainable to think about going to more school. As soon as I go to grad school, that’s so much more than undergrad,” Holland said.
While post-secondary education rates continue to rise, only 31 per cent of Canadians between 25 and 44 have a university degree.
With a report from CTV Atlantic Bureau Chief Todd Battis