Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

May 08, 2007

Prof Aims to Improve Retention of Deaf Students

Just one per cent of students who are deaf or hard of hearing go on to university or college after high school, and those that do often drop out after the first year because they struggle to make the transition.

A University of Guelph economist has come up with a radical way of making the move from high school to post-secondary education more successful for these students.

In a report recently submitted to the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities, Douglas Auld suggests that the province create a transitional institution where students who are deaf or hard of hearing could spend a year taking post-secondary courses and living in residence before attending university or college.

Auld came up with his solution after spending the past year interviewing deaf and hard-of-hearing students and their parents and reviewing previous research on the topic. He points to the overwhelming change in the environment that comes with making the transition from high school as the main reason behind the shockingly low number of deaf and hard-of-hearing students currently pursuing post-secondary education.

“The real challenge is the transition from high school and living with your family to all of a sudden living on your own and going to a university with 25,000 students,” said the adjunct economics professor, who began the study last year after retiring as president of Loyalist College in Belleville. “It’s tough for the average student so imagine what it’s like for a student who is deaf or hard of hearing.”

Just over one per cent of 18-24 year olds who are deaf or hard of hearing go on to university compared with 22 per cent of the overall age cohort, Auld said. The number of deaf or hard-of-hearing students attending college is slightly higher at eight per cent but that is still far below the number for the overall age cohort, which sits at 29 per cent. Of those who do make it to university or college, about half do not complete their education, he said.

He proposes the province turn Sir James Whitney School in Belleville into this transitional school. It was established decades ago to provide primary, secondary and specialized education for deaf and hard-of-hearing students before they became integrated into regular school programs. The transitional school would provide courses aimed at preparing students for the transition to university or college and would also offer counselling and support.

“This is a radical approach,” he said. “But the current and past approaches have not worked as well as they should, and there is now a moral obligation on the part of Ontario to take bold action to assist these students.”

Prof. Douglas Auld
Department of Economics or
519-824-4120, Ext. 52478, home number is 519-836-6325

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or Deirdre Healey, Ext. 56982.

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