International study claims higher education is still good for you

Some interesting reading in my morning paper:

In purely financial terms, the benefits of a postsecondary education to individuals and Canadian society at large far outweigh the costs, a new report suggests.

However, as Canada spends more and more on higher education, an increasing percentage of the cost is borne by students and their families, says the annual Education at a Glance report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

…The OECD estimates that the average Canadian man with a college or university education makes more than three times what he put into getting such an education, both in terms of direct costs and lost wages. For the average woman, the gain is more than double the cost. The value to society was similarly pegged at roughly double the government’s investment.

…Economist Hugh MacKenzie, however, said the concept of funding education through student loans freezes out those who are averse to debt, including students from low-income families.

“The implicit assumption behind the student loan funding model is that the student or their family is willing to take on debt in order to graduate,” said Mr. MacKenzie, an economist and research associate with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. “The lower your income, the less likely you are to take on debt to finance your education.”

Others argue that the only way to ensure access is to bring tuition fees down and guarantee stable funding directly to postsecondary institutions.

These conclusions are interesting to ponder alongside the increasingly common notion (especially popular on the anti-government right) of a higher education bubble, in which the rising costs of a university education are cast as a failure of public education itself, a crisis that can only be addressed by a good dose of private enterprise from the edupreneurs.

This study of 32 nations from the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development strongly indicates that “Even after taking account of the cost to the public exchequer of financing degree courses, higher tax revenues and social contributions from people with university degrees make tertiary education a good long-term investment.”

I suppose I should look into this report from the OECD in more detail, but the full report is only available on a password-protected site to accredited journalists and scholars at recognised institutions. I suppose I might qualify as the latter, but… What possible interest is served by the OECD by restricting access to a document so obviously of public interest? Are they hoping to see this thing hit the best-seller lists?

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