Ensuring access to postsecondary education (PSE) for all qualified individuals is key to Ontario’s future competitiveness and equally critical from an equity perspective. This paper provides an empirical analysis of access to PSE among a number of under-represented (and minority) groups in Ontario, including comparisons to other regions. Having parents that did
not attend PSE is the most important factor across the country, and the effects are even greater in Ontario than in some other regions. Being from a low-income household is considerably less important than parental education, and the income effects are even smaller in Ontario than in certain other regions. Aboriginal and disabled youth are also strongly under-represented groups in PSE in Ontario, driven entirely by their lower university participation rates, offset to different degrees by higher college participation rates . Rural students are also significantly under-represented (though to a lesser degree) in university, but again go to college at somewhat higher rates. Furthermore, for these latter groups, Ontario does not compare favourably to other regions. The children of immigrants are much more likely to go to university but somewhat less likely to attend college almost everywhere.
Being from a single parent family has little independent effect on access to PSE, as is also the case for being a Francophone outside of Quebec, the latter effect in some cases actually being positive. Intriguingly, although females generally have significantly higher PSE (especially university) attendance rates than males, females in under-represented groups are generally more disadvantaged than males. This research was funded by the Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario (HEQCO), which also provided useful feedback throughout the project. This work is based on earlier research carried out for the Canada Millennium Scholarship Foundation through the MESA project, including a series of papers involving Richard Mueller. The authors gratefully acknowledge the ongoing support provided for the MESA project by the University of Ottawa.