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Education Education Ticker: Does it take a B.A. to work retail?

A server pours a cup of coffee at a Tim Hortons in Toronto.

Chris Young/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The best of the web on education from kindergarten to postsecondary, as chosen by Globe and Mail education editor Simona Chiose.

The true value of a B.A.

Three Canadian economists have written a new paper that tries to answer some of the questions around the great skills debate. Is the value of a B.A. really declining and is the value of a trade certificate increasing? Since 2000, coinciding with the dot-com bust, the demand for highly-skilled workers has declined even as the number of university graduates has increased, they write. Instead, the American economy – and the paper is about the U.S. – has produced more lower-skilled and service jobs. Because employers have had their pick of university graduates, however, they've hired above the qualifications of the job while ignoring less qualified workers.

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The paper, however, is dependent on a hypothesis about employer behaviour: Companies only invest in new technology and the people to make it work up to a point after which they are content to rest on their laurels. But if an economy has lots of university graduates interested in innovation who are starting up businesses or want to work for tech-driven "fast" companies, then companies that want to succeed should be looking for highly-skilled graduates – particularly those in sciences or engineering. Exactly the disciplines that are most in demand in the marketplace.

The full study is available here: http://www.nber.org/papers/w18901

Brock to close liberal arts program

Brock University is seeking to close its program in Liberal Arts next year. The reason for the proposal is not just lack of demand, but also the faculty's conclusion that first-year students lacked the commitment required for some of the courses the program offered. Even though only about 21 students would be affected by the cancellation, the university has prepared a full report on the changes and the savings it would gain.

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