By: John Stoesser

Show us the grades Carleton. High school students deserve access to as much information as possible when deciding where to apply for post-secondary education.

The Ottawa Citizen published an article earlier this month about Carleton University’s refusal to provide students’ grades anonymously after the paper filed a Freedom of Information request last year for the data.

The Citizen reported that Carleton claimed releasing grade information, even anonymously, could harm their business. The university argued students wouldn’t apply if the marking was too tough and that the school wouldn’t be perceived as academically competitive enough to qualify for grants if the marking was too easy. Carleton cited student privacy as another reason to withhold the grade information.

Apparently Algonquin would take a different course than Carleton. In an email to the Algonquin Times, the college’s communications officer, Phil Gaudreau, provided the official stance on this issue.

“If Algonquin College receives a Freedom of Information request regarding grades data that is similar to the one filed at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa, we would disclose the data,” said Gaudreau. “We feel it is in the public interest to have this information available so those who wish to conduct research…are able to do that.”

This type of transparency benefits all prospective students and the perception of the institution as well. When institutions dedicated to the spreading of knowledge withhold information that is important to prospective students (and clients) it indicates that there could be something to hide.

Carleton’s refusal to release grade data is based on ideas from corporate culture that reject transparency and disclosure. This is a profit-based ideology that dominates the institution’s purpose and in this situation is flawed.

For example, the most renowned and prestigious post-secondary institutions usually have the toughest entrance requirements. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology only admits 8.9 per cent of first-year applicants and good luck getting in if an applicant scores under 750 out of 800 on the math portion of the SAT.

Tougher curriculum and marking does not mean bad business for universities. Carleton is right that giving substantially lower marks might affect a school’s business. But students have the right to know if the university they are considering paying thousands of dollars for an education isn’t providing to a high standard.

University graduates find it harder to find gainful employment in their fields. They are moving back home with their parents. They are working low-paying service and retail jobs. They are saddled with immense debt from student loans that are necessary to pay for their university education. And this is the education they believe will lead them to a high paying job. According to Statistics Canada, both the average amount of student debt and the number of student borrowers are on the rise.

Searching “average Canadian student debt” on Google returns an enormous mass of news articles and reports about student debt and employment forecasts that paint a bleak picture for prospective university students.

Choosing a post-secondary plan is a stressful decision for a high school student and every bit of information helps them make the best choice.

The moment students step into high-school they are expected to map out a career path and sculpt their future. I still remember my high school guidance counsellor telling the immature and indecisive 16-year-old version of myself to start drawing my post-secondary “road map”.

The first step was to decide what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. No big deal, right? The second step was to decide on the appropriate academic stream, be it university, college or trades. The third step was to take and pass every high school class plus back-up credits needed to obtain that academic Holy Grail – in my case a university arts degree.

Yet here I am 10 years later still figuring out step one. Sometimes you have to take a detour from the most carefully planned trip. It’s a common story, an archetypal picture of forming influences on Canadian students’.