Canadian universities immune from an admissions scandal?

Could Canadian universities be splashed by the same kind of scandal that has hit the graduate system in the United States? Experts do not believe it, although others complain that affluent students have a better chance of being admitted than others.

P everal dozen parents were arrested and charged in the United States in a case of bribery to ensure their children a place in a prestigious university. Among them are Vancouver businessman David Sidoo, who has pleaded not guilty, and actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin.

Robert Astroff, an admissions consultant, points out that selection in Canadian academic institutions is heavily focused on grades in high school. There is less room for maneuver in our country.

In Canada, there is no standardized test such as SAT or ACT, which some of the accused in the United States would have falsified, he added.

US prosecutors also allege that the accused bribed collegiate coaches to recruit their children. In the United States, the focus is more on university sports than in Canada, because they make big money.

Several other factors can help a student to be accepted by an American university: personal essays, letters of recommendation or alumni relations.

In Canada, the admission criteria are less subjective, said Astroff. Universities often only check whether the candidate’s high school grades meet the minimum requirements.

Higher education is more hierarchical in the United States. There is a huge gap between an Ivy League university like Havard or Yale and a community college. There is much less difference between Canadian universities and the selection is not so ruthless, the consultant said.

Admissions officers at Canadian universities have also emphasized these cross-border distinctions.

Curtis Michaelis, Admissions and Recruitment Coordinator at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, mentioned that the American students he met are often surprised at the “transparency” of the Canadian system.

According to Richard Levin, the Director General of Registration Services and Registrar at the University of Toronto, most programs accept 50-60% of applicants, so the acceptance rate in prestigious US schools does not exceed 5%. or 6%.

“This reflects the fact that our major public universities offer a wide range of programs that are generally quite accessible,” he said.

Increase in registration rate

Statistics Canada reported in 2017 that the university enrollment rate for 19-year-olds in all Canadian provinces has steadily increased from 52.6% in 2001 to 63.8% in 2014. The federal agency estimates that this surge can be attributed to the arrival of more young people from low-income families.

But Eloise Tan, director of the research program at Ontario’s People for Education advocacy group, said schools should not be too quick to celebrate.

“You do not have to bribe someone to get your child into college,” she said. People with higher incomes have other benefits. “They can, for example, hire a guardian to improve the child’s grades. Schools in more affluent neighborhoods can raise more funds for extracurricular activities.

Students from low-income families are also less likely to have access to guidance counselors, she lamented.

Even when universities try to level the playing field, they do not always do it right, said a researcher at the University of British Columbia.

Emily Truong-Cheung, a doctoral student in sociology, said UBC changed its admissions process in 2012 to diversify its student population. Rather than just notes, candidates are asked questions about extracurricular activities and volunteer work.

She interviewed 25 applicants and found that while young people in the upper class have the time and resources to volunteer, travel and extracurricular activities, working-class students often spend more time studying and to work to support their families.

“They were very embarrassed. They said they did not want to mention their job at McDonald’s because it’s not impressive. “

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