Labour and Earning Outcomes for Ontario Transfer Students: Evidence from PSE-Tax Linked Data

Ross Finnie
Michael Dubois
Masashi Miyairi
Reference Number
R1912, R2031

By using Statistics Canada’s Education and Labour Market Longitudinal Platform (ELMLP), and by linking Postsecondary Student Information System (PSIS) administrative data on Ontario public college and university students to personal income tax data, this project examines the labour market outcomes of transfer students while controlling for program and student characteristics. The study considers three primary factors when identifying transfers: field of study, credentials, and institution.

Research Rationale 

Extensive work has already been done to examine transfer students and pathways in Ontario. However, data limitations have previously restricted research to examining specific pathways and transfers between pairs of institutions, or coalitions of institutions formed to examine pathways and transfers. While the Ontario Education Number (OEN) now used in the postsecondary education (PSE) sector represents an excellent opportunity to learn about system-wide pathways, the limited number of years of PSE data available limits any outcome-based analysis. The Ministry of Colleges and Universities (MCU) currently uses the OEN to produce an annual student mobility report, which constitutes an accounting exercise detailing the flow of students across Ontario PSE institutions. 

A number of other Canadian jurisdictions have undertaken system-wide analyses of transfer students. Since 1991, the British Columbia Council on Admissions and Transfers (BCCAT) has prepared transfer student profile reports on a periodic basis. The Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission (MPHEC) has used the PSIS to collect information from all PSE institutions in those provinces in order to examine a wide variety of topics, including the time-to-graduation for students who change programs, transfer between institutions, or do both, compared with students who remain in the same program and institution for the duration of their studies. 

This project represents a system-wide analysis of transfer students, encompassing all universities in Ontario, as well as half of all Ontario colleges, and more importantly, includes graduates’ labour market outcomes. This project uses Statistics Canada’s Education and Labour Market Longitudinal Platform (ELMLP), linking PSIS administrative data on all PSE students at all publicly funded PSE institutions across the country to personal income tax data to examine the characteristics of transfer students from Ontario, and labour market outcomes (e.g., earnings) to those of non-transfer students.

Research Findings from Part II

This research is the first study of its kind to include transfer students across Ontario universities and colleges, covering a period of seven years, which analyzes the student, program, and transfer characteristics associated with labour market outcomes. It therefore provides new system-wide information that would provide a better understanding of transfer students’ outcomes.

Much like EPRI’s previous study, this information could be used by policy makers to guide the development of student transfer processes in Ontario. For example, if transfer student outcomes are found to be comparable to non-transfer students, policies that would further facilitate student mobility in the province could be developed. The project could also help policymakers identify remaining knowledge gaps and areas of interest for future research. This research could also inform college and university administrators on the specific characteristics of different types of transfer students, which could affect decisions on credit recognition and transfer processes as well as support services offered to transfer students to support their transitions, help them complete their studies in a timely fashion, and transition successfully into the labour market. Finally, this research could also inform students considering a change in field of study, credential, and/or institution by providing a better understanding of the relationship between transferring and their likelihood of graduating, time to graduation, and their earnings following graduation. 

Spotlight on Research Findings 

  • For bachelor’s degree graduates, post-graduation earnings are $36,200, on average, one year following graduation; earnings grow to $44,400 two years following graduation; and earnings reach $48,900 three years following graduation. College-level diploma graduates earn $28,100 one year following graduation, on average. Their mean earnings then grow steadily, reaching $39,600 five years following graduation. 

  • Among bachelor’s degree graduates, a statistically significant earnings premium ranging from $1,700 to $5,000 is found for transfer students who stay in the same educational credential and field of study. On the other hand, earnings tend to be lower for transfer students from college-level diploma programs than bachelor’s degree students who stay in the same institution and field of study, though the differences are not statistically significant for all years since graduation. 

  • Among college-level diploma graduates, transfer students from bachelor’s degree programs in the same field of study have a statistically significant earnings premium over college-level diploma students who stay in the same institution and field of study, which grows from $2,900 to $8,400 over a five-year period following graduation. In contrast, earnings are lower for transfer students who are originally enrolled in different college diploma programs in different fields of study, as well as students who change their field of study but not their institution or educational credential.