CanWe Stem the Exodus?
LOST—From eight Canadian universities: $247,000,000 earning power
W. A. IRWIN
IN A recent issue of the University of Toronto Monthly, J. M. R. Fairbairn, chief engineer of the Canadian Pacific Railway, writes as follows concerning emigration of Canadian-trained engineers to the United States: ‘Our governments, both federal and provincial, are giving a considerable amount of attention just now to the problem of immigration. One sees many estimates or guesses of the productivity of each immigrant. There is great hope in sight that by adding to our numbers we shall thereby add to our own and the new arrivals’ prosperity and happiness. But let us examine what is happening to the young engineers, trained in Canada at a cost of $2,000 per head, most of which comes out of the pockets of the provincial (Ontario) government. Twenty per cent, of the class of ’23 in Applied Science at the University of Toronto found employment in the United States. Each graduate (taking the average man rather than the leader) has a capitalization value, to the state, of, at least, $90,000 in earning power alone, and this without reference to the effect of his work on industry in general. The logic of the situation is obvious—Canada needs immigrants, not emigrants, so that we need to put an end to the migration of technically trained men to United States, both for patriotic and economic reasons.’
Mr. Fairbairn’s estimate of the potential value of the young engineering graduate is a modest one. Over a period of thirty-five years, it works out at about $2,570 a year. Most university graduates are optimistic enough to believe that their future earning power will average at least $2,570 a year, no matter what their profession. Accepting that figure as a basis, let us see if we can secure some concrete idea of the extent of the economic loss suffered by Canada through her failuretoholdhertrained brains.
In the initial article of this series, detailed figures were given showing the extent of the exodus to the United States from eight representative Canadian universities. Out of a total of 31,101 graduates from these eight institutions, 4,132 were recorded as now being resident in the United States.
Some of the 4,132 exiles are women whose money-making, in many cases, will continue only until marriage and whose total earnings, therefore, will lower materially the general average. To be on the safe side, let us reduce the $90.000 to $60,000, thus ensuring ample margin against over-estimate, and then compute the aggregate of this particular debit item in our national profit and loss sheet.
Even when this conservative figure is used as basis, the result is sufficiently startling.
The drain on these eight universities represents a loss in potential earning power to this Dominion of more than $? f7,000,000.
Two hundred and fortyseven millions of dollars! This our loss from eight universities, and there are twenty-three universities in Canada, not to mention eighty-three colleges and professional schools! Small wonder that the chief engineer of the Canadian Pacific Railway declares that,‘we need to
put an end to the migration of technically trained men to the United States, both for patriotic and economic reasons.’
Can we put an end to it?
Is Our Higher Education High Enough?
O EADERS of the preceding article will recall that it JA. attacked the problem from the point of view of the exile himself, from the point of view, in other words, of the university-trained Canadian now in the United States. Summarizing the results of a questionnaire sent to 1,000 graduates now living south of the border, it was stated that fifty-seven per cent, of the expatriates labelled ‘economic advantage’ as the cause of their departure from Canada. Twenty per cent, maintained that their going was due to a desire to avail themselves
of ‘better opportunities for advanced education and a wider field for the specialist’.
Ignoring, for the moment, the purely economic aspects of the question, what lies behind the departure of the last mentioned twenty per cent.? Why did they consider it necessary to go to the United States in search of better opportunities for advanced education? How does our system of higher education compare with that of the United States? Is it adequate or inadequate? Is it turning out the right kind of trained brains? In short, is there any room here for the application of a remedy for the exodus?
In the main, the answers to those questions indicate that our university system is superior to that of the United States, up to a point.
Not all the comment is eulogistic but there is no lack of evidence to show that the great majority of the graduates are satisfied with the kind of under-graduate education Canada gives them.
‘You ask if I have any criticism of Canadian education,’ writes a public utilities engineer now in New Orleans. T have not. On the contrary, I have nothing but admiration for it. One can best judge any educational system by its product and, when measured by this yardstick, Canadians need develop no inferiority complex when comparing their educational system or systems with anything in this country.’
To take another typical letter, here is the opinion of a medical graduate from one of the eastern universities, who is now in Detroit: ‘Judging by the product it turns out, I feel assured that university education in Canada need take no second place. In
States internes, I see no evidences of superior intelligence in their daily work. Moreover, the Canadian graduates certainly are more conscientious. speak from definite experience since my association includes graduates of the leading medical schools in the United States.’
Other evidence as to the general efficiency of our undergraduate schools is to be found in the fact that Canadian university graduates, in competition with the graduates of American universities, succeed in the United States to a degree which is little short of amazing. This phase of the question will be expanded in a contribution from another writer which will be included in this series, but a brief reference here will emphasize the point that I am trying tobring out.
Ever since Sir William Osier one-time head of the Medical School at McGill, established reputation as one of the leading medical scientists of his age, graduates cf Canadian medical schools have been at a premium in the United States. The Osier tradition still persists and, of late, it has been strengthened by the fame which Dr. Banting brought to the Canadian medical profession by his discovery of insulin. By way of concrete example, note this observation from one of the exiles, himself the head of the Department of Otology and Laryngology in one of the state medical schools of the South-West:
‘In this southern city of 150,000 there are se eral hundred physicians. 1 here are only four Canadian b.rn doc-
tors. Three of these are heads of departments in the University of--College of Medicine. Three minis-
ters in the largest Protestant churches of this city have been Canadian-born. I might go on and mention similar conditions in other professions and in the business world.’
Similarly a Maritime graduate, now in Seattle, writes that:
‘There are many Canadians in this city of 380,000; not a few of them hold prominent positions. One from New Brunswick is at present governor of the State; one a judge of the Superior Court; one a superintendent of the municipal electric light system and another is county auditor, to mention only a few of them.’
T have often remarked that Canada is educating her young men to come to the United States to work,’ adds an Anglican clergyman now in California.
‘This is especially true as regards graduates in divinity. In this diocese, one-third of the clergymen are Canadians and the dean of the cathedral is from Canada. The present Bishop of Western New York, the present Bishop of Chicago and the present Bishop-Coadjutor of Connecticut are all Canadians. There can be no doubt but that the United States profits very largely from the migration of educated Canadians to this country.’
More striking still is the fact noted by this Canadian now employed as a research worker by the Rockefeller Foundation in New York City:
‘I am a graduate in Arts of Dalhousie University and of Medicine from McGill (1922) and am now holding a fellowship in medicine from the United States National Research Council. In passing, I may mention that out of sixteen fellowships in medicine awarded by the United States National Research Council six went to Canadians, a significant indication of the attitude of the council toward Canadians.’
Why Twenty Per Cent. Leave Home
BUT read the conclusion of that exile’s letter:
T came to the United States to do research work in medicine, in which field this country unquestionably offers greatly superior advantages, largely because of the munificence of its philanthropists.’
There, unerringly he points to where our educational system breaks down. He had to go to the United States for post-graduate work —and he stayed there. And twenty per cent, of those who answered the query, ‘Why did you leave?’ replied in like manner.
Consider, for instance, this letter from a graduate of Acadia University, Nova Scotia, now a technician in a large industry in a Pennsylvania city:
‘Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have been injured by the encouragement which their colleges give to their graduates to go to the United States for further study. Of course, it is more expensive to go to Europe, and our own McGill and Toronto do not offer the facilities that the graduate schools of the larger universities in the United States can. Yet, this is undoubtedly one of the main reasons why our young college graduates in Canada, and particularly in the Maritime Provinces, settle in the United States. When they leave the American graduate schools there are opportunities for a position right at hand; after several years of college they are anxious to be settled and take such positions rather than wait to see what there is in Canada. Unconsciously, they have developed the idea that the opportunities are much greater than they could find in Canada. When one reads over the lists of graduates of a Canadian college, it is amazing to see the large numbers who are teaching in colleges in the United States or preaching in the larger churches. Almost without exception they have gone into those positions straight from American graduate schools and theological seminaries.’
In corroboration of that opinion here is the experience of a Maritime graduate now taking post-graduate work at the University of Illinois:
‘When I decided to do graduate work, I wrote to two of our Canadian graduate schools asking them for information regarding opportunities for graduate work in my line at their schools. I inquired also as to the opportunities for a fellowship or scholarship or assistantship. I received an answer from one university—a discouraging one. The other did not answer at all. I then wrote to some ten American universities. I received encouraging answers from all and financial offers from five. I accepted one, my present position. I am now doing graduate work and my position makes me enough to pay expenses.
‘My country educated me, and I know I should use any abilities I may have to help develop her. My ancestors on
both sides, for two generations, have been Canadian. I would like to live there, too, but I cannot find an opening there at present in my line of work. I want to return and if I can at any time obtain a suitable position in Canada I shall return.’
‘I would like to offer this criticism of Canadian universities in relation to graduate work,’ adds a professor of economics, now in a women’s college in Virginia. “I think they are doing too little to keep Canadian students interested in Canadian problems. I don’t know that I favor altogether the idea of Canadian students doing their whole four years of work for a doctor’s degree in Canada, but I think it would be of great benefit to Canada if one year of graduate work, or possibly two, could be given in Canada, thus holding the student long enough to establish his chief scholarly interest around Canadian
problems. Especially do I feel that an institution like Toronto could perform a valuable service in this regard.’
Time and time again the comments stress the excellence of the undergraduate training in Canada while pointing to the inadequacy of our post-graduate schools. Note this, for instance, from a clergyman now in California:
‘Speaking from observation, my conviction is strong that the Canadian colleges do more thorough work than is the case here. This is especially true in connection with the teaching of English. Of course, the postgraduate opportunities here are superb, but up to that point, the Canadian schools do better work, in my opinion.’
And this from an agricultural graduate, now a professor of vegetable gardening in an agricultural college in New England:
‘Educational methods in Canada are in many ways to be preferred to those of the United States. Under the Canadian system, I think the student receives a wider education and a sounder foundation to take up his work in relation to society. It does not, however, offer as wide a choice of specialization after that foundation is laid as is offered by the universities in the United States.’
And this, from a Baptist clergyman, also in New England:
‘I think the Canadian educational system is equal to that we have here in every respect, save that there are fewer institutions in Canada where one can specialize. From the point of view of my own profession, I wish there were a theological seminary in Canada with a reputation equal to that of Union, or Princeton, or Chicago. Had that been the case when I graduated, I might never have left my native land.’
The Specialist Neglected
ONE could go on multiplying similar examples, but there is no need to labor the point. The immediate question is: What is the significance of this evidence
about our higher educational system? Has it any constructive meaning to the Canadian who realizes the importance of conserving Canada’s trained brain-power for the benefit of the Dominion?
It will be admitted, I think, that two facts stand out unmistakably.
In the first place, Canada can, and does, provide an under-graduate training that is equal to, if not better than, that provided by the United States.
In the second place, Canada is not taking the next logical step in furnishing adequate facilities for the advanced training without which no nation can hope to hold its own in a competitive world where knowledge and the application of that knowledge is an absolute essential to national success.
Note the qualification, ‘adequate’. We have made a start. Most of the universities in Canada do provide post-graduate training of some kind. Some of them, notably, McGill and Toronto, have fairly large post-graduate schools. In some branches of knowledge, valuable contributions already have been made, as witness, again, the Banting discovery; the strides made in preventive medicine at the University of Toronto; the McLennan researches in helium also at Toronto; and the discoveries leading to the extraction of bitumen from the bituminous sands of the Mackenzie River, in Alberta, to mention only a few of them. There is no intent to disparage here the work already accomplished at, or in connection with, these schools. In many cases, it has been carried through in the face of extraordinary difficulties', and the results, even from the purely practical standpoint, are by no means inconsiderable.
The fact remains, however, that nowhere in Canada is there a graduate school that can compare in size, equipment or reputation, with any one of half a dozen or more such schools in the United States. For the purposes of this article, it is not necessary to go into a long discussion on the whys and wherefores of the fact. Most of the reasons can be traced back to one source— the inability of the universities to get the necessary money. That, in turn, has been due to the indifference of legislators on one hand, and the apathy of the general public on the other. There are those who will blame it all on poverty, but however good a reason that may have been forty years ago, poverty is a poor sort of excuse when applied to a people to-day rated as the third richest, per capita, in the world.
A more serious difficulty is our habit of looking at education provincially instead of nationally. Being a school for specialists, a graduate school by its very nature draws its students, not alone from the province in which it may happen to be situated, but from all provinces. This fact has not been overlooked by provincial educational authorities in the past. ‘Why should we spend our money to train graduate students from other provinces?’ they have asked. ‘Our first duty is to look after the people who pay their taxes to us.5 So far as it goes, this argument is unanswerable, but consider, for a moment, where it leads us.
A Headless Pyramid
OUR municipal and provincial governments spend upwards of $120,000,000 a year on education. Most of us think we are getting fairly good returns from our money in the product of our public schools, our secondary schools and our universities, but when it comes to holding for our own use the very cream of that product, we succeed only partially, and our neighbor profits to the extent of our loss. Year after year we go on pouring this huge amount of money into an educational pyramid, and year after year we make only half-hearted attempts to finish off that pyramid at the top. Looked at from the purely materialistic standpoint, it is the same old problem of raw material and. finished product all over again. We refine the raw material of our educational machine up to the point where it is semi-finished-—and then ship that part of it which we cannot use in the semi-finished state across the border where the refining process is completed; as is the case, for instance, with semi-finished pulp and paper products. With this difference—we do get some return from semi-finished pulp and paper products; from our exports of semi-finished brains we get not a cent. And who shall say that brains are not more valuable than pulp and paper?
What’s to be done about it?
Obviously, the remedy is to build more and better graduate schools. If it can’t be done provincially, it ought to be done nationally, with the co-operation of the provinces. Nor can we expect government to solve the problem unaided. Much of the strength of the United Continued on page 1,2
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States graduate schools lies in the support given those institutions by private wealth, which has learned the lesson that money properly invested in higher education is returned a hundredfold. That is a lesson we in this country cannot learn too quickly. KMI ~dk
And lest it be considered that the cost might be excessive, let us remember these facts: Twenty per cent, of the exiles who helped write this article stated that lack of advanced educational facilities was responsible for their leaving Canada. Twenty per cent, of the $247,000,000 which represents the loss from eight of our universities is $49,000,000. Even if we succeeded in holding only half of the twenty per cent., we could afford to spend a good many millions on graduate education without being accused of being unbusinesslike.
Are Our Brain Factories Overproducing?
FOR the sake of clarity this question of graduate training has been treated as if it were the only phase of the educational question raised by the exodus, which it is not. Many Canadians claim that the reason for our loss of trained brains is simply the fact that we produce too many of them. This attitude is reflected in some of the letters from the exiles themselves. To cite a typical case, here is the opinion of a professor of political economy in a university in New Jersey:
‘The trouble with Canada is that it produces more brains than it can employ. That is the chief cause of the exodus of the professions. Ninety per cent, of them would prefer to remain in Canada—they don’t leave to make more money.’
There is no question but that Canada produces more brains than she does employ. Is it true to say that she is producing more trained brains than she can employ?
Before trying to answer that question, let us look at these figures:
There are in Canada 106 colleges, universities and professionalschools which in 1924, the last year for which totals are available, had an enrolment of 52,639 students. The corresponding figures (1922) for the United States are 780 and 618,555. It takes only a minute’s figuring to show that the United States is training university and college students on the basis of one in every 176 of its population, while Canada is training one in every 175. In other words, we are turning out practically the same number of university graduates as the United States, and no more. Howisit, then,thattheUnited States absorbs all its own graduates and no inconsiderable percentage of ours, while we do not absorb a quota which, relatively speaking is no larger than theirs?
Can it be that we are turning out the wrong kind of trained brains to suit our particular needs? Or is it, to use the words of Dr. H. M. Tory, president of the University of Alberta, that we have not. ‘the brains, the courage, nor the will power’ to use the trained brains we are turning out?
Here is a letter from a professor of psychology and education in a university in New York state that has a bearing on the first of those two questions:
‘It would seem,’ he writes, ‘that in my time (graduate of Acadia, 1895) and for many years afterward, there was an overproduction of teachers in Canada. There were not, I think, sufficient social encouragements and educational facilities for the training of young men along the lines most needed for the development of the country. Had these conditions been different, I think many of us who became teachers and migrated to this country
gladly would have entered into other occupations at home.’
That particular observer speaks of conditions as they existed twenty or thirty years ago, but the same cannot be said of this comment by Sir Robert Falconer, president of the University of Toronto, which is to be found in his annual report for 1926 to the governors of that institution.
“I may draw attention to the fact that the numbers in the Ontario College of Education have been unusually large and that the supply of high school teachers in Ontario, like that of the public school teachers, now exceeds the demand.’
Sir Robert’s comment applies only to one province and to one profession, but in this connection the opinion of a graduate of Dalhousie, now engaged in electrical research at Schenectady is worth considering. He writes:
‘Canada is suffering from too great an output of non-productive university graduates; too many lawyers, ministers and teachers who try to improve conditions by argument. The same effort spent in proper scientific development of natural resources and agriculture would go a long way toward putting Canada in better economic position, which, in turn, would tend to stop the flow to the United States.’
More sweeping still, is this comment from a Canadian doctor, now in California:
‘I believe that the Canadian educational method should have been changed at least thirty years ago. Instead of giving all classes of students an education that is designed to lead up to a professional career, we should adjust the education to local conditions and to the needs of the country. We should not give farm children an education which bears but little relation to the fundamental needs of agriculture. Similarly, with children in the cities. They can’t all go into the professions, and those who can’t should be given vocational training which will fit them to go into industry or into commerce, as the case may be.’
In all fairness, the writer of the last letter should be reminded that the trend during the last ten years in Canada has been toward more vocational training. It was only in 1919 that the Federal Government voted $10,000,000 to be spent bv the provinces during the succeeding ten years in the developing of technical education. Very largely as a result of that vote, the growth of technical education
throughout the Dominion since 1919 has been rapid.
It must be admitted, however, that our system of higher education still is open to criticism. During the year 1924, for instance, we were training 1,673 divinity students in twenty-eight theological colleges, whereas our efforts to meet the need for trained brains in agriculture were limited to the training of 1,214 students in six agricultural colleges. To say the least, the ratio, six to twentyeight, strikes one as being incongruous in a country in which agriculture is the basic industry. And when one considers the relatively large number of Canadian theological graduates now in the United States, it becomes obvious, I think, that migration of trained brains is definitely related to the misapplication of educational effort.
Further illustration of the necessity for constructive thinking along these lines is to be found in the comparative lack of scientific exploitation of the fisheries in the Maritime Provinces. Prof. A. G. Huntsman, director of the Atlantic Fisheries Experimental Station, a research station maintained by the Marine Biological Board at Halifax, is authority for the statement that the annual revenue from the fisheries of the three eastern provinces could be multiplied ten times over, in other words, from $17,000,000 to $170,000,000. There are five universities in the two provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and, until recently, they were doing little or nothing to encourage study of the fisheries along scientific lines. Even to-day there is nothing approaching a fisheries college in the Maritimes—and of all sections of the Dominion, the Maritimes have been the worst sufferers by reason of the migration from the universities.
Nor is the problem peculiar to the Maritimes. We need brains, but we must give them the right kind of training. Therein lies the contribution which our educators can make toward stemming the exodus.
Information received as this article goes to press gives assurance that the question of Canadian emigration to the United States is going to be given prompt consideration by a body of men who are well equipped to offer practical suggestions as to remedies. In his next article, which will appear in MacLean’s July 15, Mr. Irwin will deal with this development and also other constructive endeavors.—The Editor.