Fees and higher education: does social class make a difference?

An interesting article from The Conversation, written by Andrew Norton, Program Director – Higher Education, at Grattan Institute. The article looks at statistics to show that it is most often the lower ranking ATAR students (which doesn’t necessarily have a skew to lower socio-economic background) that attend university, which have the highest non-completion rate, and may have been better served by being informed about other options such as vocational training or entering the workforce. It goes on to argue that fee deregulation may not have such a big impact on lower socio-ecomonic students. Take a read below – do you agree?

Students

In contemporary Australia, post-school education is necessary for most well-paid jobs. And so who gets access to education is important. University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis echoed many people’s concerns when he asked whether university fee deregulation will deter potential students from low socioeconomic status backgrounds. However, if we look at the evidence, we see this isn’t necessarily the case.

Is university for everyone?

Important as this issue is, another question needs answering first: is higher education everyone’s best option? While on average people with higher education qualifications are better off than others, some students never complete the courses they start, and not all graduates get good jobs. Even free university courses can cost too much, if students could have used their time more effectively.

Once students are enrolled, low socioeconomic status does not in itself add significantly to non-completion risks or poor financial returns after graduation. But low socioeconomic background students are over-represented among school leavers applying with lower ATARs, and lower-ATAR university students are in turn over-represented among those who don’t complete their courses.

For students entering a bachelor degree with an ATAR under 60, six-year completion chances are around 50%, compared to nearly 90% for students in the 95-plus ATAR group. All the published completions data includes people who are still enrolled, but for lower-ATAR students the final non-completion rate is estimated to be around 40%. It isn’t social progress to leave someone with a student debt but no degree, if with better advice they would have made a different educational decision.

In contemporary Australia, post-school education is necessary for most well-paid jobs. And so who gets access to education is important. University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis echoed many people’s concerns when he asked whether university fee deregulation will deter potential students from low socioeconomic status backgrounds. However, if we look at the evidence, we see this isn’t necessarily the case.Is university for everyone? Important as this issue is, another question needs answering first: is higher education everyone’s best option? While on average people with higher education qualifications are better off than others, some students never complete the courses they start, and not all graduates get good jobs. Even free university courses can cost too much, if students could have used their time more effectively.Once students are enrolled, low socioeconomic status does not in itself add significantly to non-completion risks or poor financial returns after graduation. But low socioeconomic background students are over-represented among school leavers applying with lower ATARs, and lower-ATAR university students are in turn over-represented among those who don’t complete their courses.For students entering a bachelor degree with an ATAR under 60, six-year completion chances are around 50%, compared to nearly 90% for students in the 95-plus ATAR group. All the published completions data includes people who are still enrolled, but for lower-ATAR students the final non-completion rate is estimated to be around 40%. It isn’t social progress to leave someone with a student debt but no degree, if with better advice they would have made a different educational decision.

Continue reading the full article here: Fees and higher education: does social class make a difference?.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s